School district pitches resolution to boost math, English proficiency

Faced with an ever-widening achievement gap split on racial and ethnic lines, San Francisco school board members introduced a resolution Tuesday that aims to boost at least 60 percent of the district’s students to proficiency in math and English within the next four years.

Proficiency standards are defined as grade-level mastery of the state’s standardized tests.

“This resolution is the basis of parents saying, ‘we’re tired of our kids being left behind,’” said Eric Mar, one of the three board members who sponsored the measure.

The most recent state standardized test results — released in August 2007 — revealed disparities in black and Hispanic students’ test scores in comparison with Asian and white students.

Despite improving in language arts between 2003 and 2007, the scores of black students still lagged far behind those of white students and Asians.

Mar said establishing a 60 percent benchmark for all scores was a way of encouraging accelerated learning levels, without creating unrealistic expectations — that, if, not realized, “could result in an atmosphere of despair.”

Terry Factora, a volunteer with the family-focused nonprofit Coleman Advocates, was one of several parents who worked with Mar on drafting the resolution.

According to Factora, setting benchmarks was a way for parents — especially those of black, Hispanic and Pacific Islander students — to hold San Francisco educators accountable for their teaching practices.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia said many of the goals of his five-year master plan, which will be released in March, address the problem of the achievement gap.

“Closing the achievement gap is absolutely the most important thing for our school district,” Garcia said. “We need to find ways to get African-Americans and Latinos excited about learning by making education relevantto them. We’ve talked this issue to death. Now we need action.”

Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, now the policy head for Washington, D.C.-based think tank Alliance for Excellent Education, said recognizing the achievement gap is the top priority for educators.

“There has to be personalized plans for every student,” Wise said. “The achievement gap can only be addressed if there is a clear belief that every student can achieve.”

wreisman@examiner.com

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