The good, bad and ugly in The City’s education

If the San Francisco Unified School District were a student, it would probably receive a D based on the results of its mission to provide 56,000 students with “an equal opportunity to succeed by promoting intellectual growth, creativity, self-discipline, cultural sensitivity, and democratic responsibility.”

First, the good news: The 12.1 percent dropout rate in the 2009-10 school year is much better than the statewide dropout rate of 18.2 percent. And San Francisco’s rate is down considerably from three and four years ago, when it was 17.9 and 19.6 percent.

In addition, black and Latino students have made progress in closing the achievement gap with white and Asian students by increasing their math and English scores more than the district as a whole on the California Standard
Testing and Reporting exams.

And the district’s Academic Performance Index score of 791 (out of 1,000) for 2010 places it above the middle of the pack for unified school districts in the Bay Area, and represents a 16-point improvement over the preceding year.

Now for the bad news: The dropout rate has increased by 3 percentage points from the 2008-09 school year. And black and Latino students continue to drop out at a much higher rate (19 percent) than white (10 percent) and Asian (6 percent) students.

In addition, only 57.4 percent of San Francisco students in grades two through 11 are proficient or above in English, and only 55.6 percent in math, according to 2011 STAR testing. In other words, more than four out of every 10 students are unable to read, write or do arithmetic at a level that would enable them to succeed in college or in many occupations later in life.

And San Francisco’s API score trails the Palo Alto, Piedmont, San Ramon Valley, Pleasanton, Dublin, Scotts Valley, Albany, Fremont, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Novato, Benicia, Alameda, Milpitas, San Lorenzo Valley, Livermore Valley, Martinez, Travis, South San Francisco, Petaluma, San Rafael, San Jose and Shoreline school districts.

With such a lackluster level of academic performance, you would think the SFUSD board would be keen to do anything and everything it can to help provide students with an equal opportunity to succeed.

Which leads us to the ugly news: The board recently denied the application by a charter school with a track record of success in educating low-income students.

Rocketship Education has five campuses in low-income San Jose neighborhoods that are showing impressive results. Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary earned an API score of 925 two years in a row — a 17 percent improvement over San Francisco’s API. Rocketship Sí Se Puede Academy earned an API score of 886 in its first year of operation.

Fortunately, Rocketship has appealed its application to the state Board of Education. Hopefully, it will be approved so that at least some of San Francisco’s low-income children will have a chance at success, instead of being forced into the mediocrity that prevails in the San Francisco Unified School District.


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