SF schools to increase language, arts and minority-focused programs

Language and arts studies in San Francisco public schools, along with programs to support minority students, are set to receive a boost in the coming years.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education unanimously approved four resolutions, including the controversial proposal to limit enrollment to city residents only at the coveted Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. The resolutions also call for the San Francisco Unified School District to begin teaching Vietnamese and Arabic, and expand services for black students.

“The board made a number of powerful, strong stances and actions in support of our most underserved students [Tuesday] night,” said Matt Haney, the board’s vice president who co-authored three of the four resolutions.

“Some of these decisions were difficult ones, some have been under development for months or years, and it was inspiring and hopeful to see the board united around a shared vision for our priorities as a district,” Haney added.

Per the resolution regulating enrollment at the arts school, the SFUSD will also establish a summer program to enhance the artistic skills of fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders, and create a task force with students, faculty and parents from the school community to explore strengthening arts education in elementary and middle schools, and encourage a more diverse pool of students to apply.

Another resolution calls for the creation of Vietnamese and Arabic world-language pathways beginning in the 2017-18 school year. That initiative was established in response to a growing number of Arabic- and Vietnamese-speaking students in The City’s public schools.

World-language pathways are designed for students to develop competency in a second language in addition to becoming fully proficient in English. The target language is taught from 30 to 60 minutes a day, three to five days a week in elementary, middle and high schools.

Also approved Tuesday night was a resolution that highlights how the district will prioritize and keep track of its goals to eliminate the achievement gap between black and other students by creating new data-driven approaches to tracking student success and hiring more black teachers, among other efforts.

Data released by the district shows that while the number of black students in the SFUSD has dropped from 9,739 in 2001 to 4,215 in 2015, many continue to fall behind in standardized test scores, GPAs, and graduation and attendance rates. Students will also be taught CPR beginning next school year as part of the high school health curriculum, per the fourth resolution that received the board’s unanimous support Tuesday.

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