Thursday, December 26, 2013


A belated Christmas wish list.

1.  Dismiss all teachers by the end of the school year who have a documented record of failure should Vergara succeed in striking down the teacher protection statutes. SFUSD  decides whether it will be the protector of failing teachers or the protector of successful students.

2. Apply the cost savings from differential of dismissed employee salaries and new hires to further increase the base salaries for old and new teachers in hard-to-staff schools.  Salaries increases do not carry over if teachers move to other non-qualifying schools.

3. Increase neighborhood residence to highest preference after siblings for elementary, middle and high school. Remove CTIP classification and give 3rd preference to student applicants with lowest quintile MAPP scores.  Elementary classification to be based on socio-economic class using tax records.

4.  Sell a portion of surplus real estate and rebuild schools where infrastructure is lacking using SFUSD surplus real estate grand jury recommendations.

5. Establish per pupil minimum based upon general revenue funding  not specifically allocated  for categorical purposes. Hard-to-staff schools excepted for the purpose of base salary increases.  Remove favoritism in school site funding to assure that all students receive equal treatment under law. Abolish Superintendent Zones.

6. Restructure and enlarge Board of Education to elect district representatives on the same model as the Supervisors. Establish a two- term limit. Limit union influence on Board elections and give neighborhoods representation.

7. Increase school day by one hour for four days a week and implement homework period during regular school day, K-3 excepted. Shorten summer break by 5 weeks and expand quarter and semester breaks by 3 weeks. Funding to be applied from LCFF increases. Teachers to work one hour longer daily and school year to increase by 2 weeks to bring annual works hours closer to industry standards and to increase student achievement. Teachers will still work considerably fewer days than other state employees and far fewer than in private industry.

8. Increase annual instructional hours by removing the two winter and spring finals-only weeks in high school, with the exception of senior year to prepare for college.

9. Abolish teacher tenure. All teacher pay increases based upon merit and COLA.

10. Abolish social advancement. Establish multi-level remedial classes for students with failing grades to be paid for with supplemental and concentration LCFF grants. 

Monday, December 16, 2013


In Sunday's Examiner article, "School placements akin to college admission", writer Joel Engardio makes a strong case for the failure of the latest school assignment system. In response to Stanford's Center for Education Policy Analysis, which cited data demonstrating a propensity for families to self-select same race schools, Board of Ed Commissioner Matt Haney is quoted saying, "It shook me a bit. People are picking schools that look like them when their neighborhood school would actually be more diversified if everyone just went there."

I wasn't shaken by this revelation. It's obvious. This is what  our group, Students First, the creators of Prop H, had been saying all along - that neighborhood schooling would increase diversity throughout the district because of the uniquely diverse nature of a majority of neighborhoods.
Haney went on to say, "Some people say that what we have now is the best bad option. But I don't think we should just throw  parents to 'The Hunger Games' and say 'good luck'. If the system isn't working for people, we need to address that." Engardio elaborated on Haney's comment that parents face " a classic prisoner's dilemma", saying, "if ten families live on the same block, they could work together to improve a struggling neighborhood school. But if five families win the lottery for a top school elsewhere, five are left with less incentive to commit to the local school. They could opt for private education or leave The City."

And they do.  All the money spent, human resources, community meetings, Board meetings, committee meetings and testimony by experts that went into creating the assignment system is negated by the simple facts that we have more students in private schools and the fewest families percentage-wise of any American city. If Haney sees the high rate of African American suspensions (see last post) as problematic, he should be livid that America's most progressive city has a school policy which drives people away from public education and out of The City itself.
Haney said it all with this comment: "I was willing to excuse some of the anger, the frustration, families leaving San Francisco - because our crazy system had a bigger goal of better outcomes. Now I question if it is all worth it. If the system isn't accomplishing its goals, then what's the point?"
Exactly. Thank you, Matt, and please read my earlier post,"SFUSD Manipulating Assignment Data" to see how your administration has been manipulating data to hide the failure of its assignment system.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I have wanted to write my next post on the Local Control Funding Formula, but I've decided to delay that post to discuss a new Board resolution to do away with suspensions for willful defiance that Matt Haney will propose as a first reading this coming Tuesday, Dec 10th.

Right off the bat let me say that I don't support this resolution because, first of all, it is central office meddling in school site affairs. It was the Board that mandated Restorative Practices in all schools and if it is constructive in resolving conflict why the need for a limit on suspensions? In addition, it is also creating an inequity to the extent that   it's more difficult for schools with fewer intervention resources to effectively moderate student behaviors compared to  schools in the Superintendent Zones which have more counseling and other intervention resources. The District should respect the school staff to do what's right, a point that Richard Carranza made just this last summer at the Administrator's Institute, though I suspect he probably supports this resolution anyway. 

I acknowledge that the high number of suspensions of African American students is a problem, but it is also as an embarrassment to a politically far-left District that views everything through the prism of statistical equity.   No doubt, suspending students who, often times, end up on the streets is a lousy outcome. I think we can all agree that suspensions ought to be a last resort to protect teachers, students and  classrooms as a whole from frequent or extreme disruptions to instructional time and quality and the District is rightfully obligated to assure suspension protocols aren't abused, though this resolution is something quite different. It is building a high bar for suspensions, but does nothing to increase services required to implement that bar.

I believe there are genuine cultural issues which make some unwanted behaviors understandable in context of the difficult circumstances some students face. In response, some critics of the suspension limit would say that  the necessary self-discipline and structure necessary to  to succeed in high school and successfully enter the working force or attend college requires a clear code of behavior. Others point out that suspensions as a behavioral tool aren't generally successful for inculcating discipline anyway. They say a school system cannot mandate behavior since education is a right in California and, therefore, the "system" must learn how to engage students such that they enjoy to be in school - a commendable if tall order for sure.   In fact, as tall orders go , this one is often ridiculous since some of the students who are habitually suspended are incorrigible.  

Proponents of the resolution cite statistics that show African American suspension rates at approximately five times the district norm.  They maintain that this number reflects a racial bias and that removing willful suspensions will rectify what is essentially a racist policy.  I believe, though I'm not sure, that those proponents, at least the less ideological ones who dig deeper than a politically-favorable statistical correlation to use as a truncheon, believe that the cultural component of behavior is critical in understanding what they consider to be a soft racism in high African American suspension rates. I cannot discount this idea as invalid, though it is a rationale not a solution for destructive behavior in class and as such it fails to advance students towards the  skills and attitudes necessary to compete in a society that has fundamentally different cultural requirements for mainstream employment and upward mobility. For example, sagging in the black community is an acceptable dress code, but few employers will hire anyone who doesn't comport with their standards of appropriate dress and sagging isn't one of them.  The schools ought to promote standards that help not hinder student transition to adult life, whether that has to do with school dress code or, more importantly, the way students act and react to others when under stress. We can respect each other's differences and at the same time require a universal code of conduct. No school administrator anywhere in the world will tell you that a school can be run without a code of conduct or that conduct can be controlled without enforcement.

School isn't only about learning the core curriculum. It's about learning to get along and go along. Disruptive and defiant students should not be allowed to remain in the classroom regardless of the reason why they can't or won't change their behavior. Administrators need to be given the discretion and have the confidence of their superiors to do what is appropriate for the benefit of their schools, even if it means suspending students for willful defiance.  If District officials want site administrators to refrain from suspending students that's OK in certain less egregious circumstances as long as they don't insist that defiant students be placed in the regular classroom. Provide an in-school alternative to suspension and provide the services these students need. This resolution  speaks to the arrogance of the Board in lording over the more experienced site administrators. Mandating a suspension protocol without providing the tools necessary is irresponsible and pointless.

If Restorative Practices are beneficial for moderating conduct, why does SFUSD need to make it more difficult to suspend students when site administrators deem it appropriate? We have to ask ourselves whether our leaders are interested in preserving the integrity of the school as an institution of learning or whether the leaders just want to do what is politically correct and equalize suspension statistics? Or is it all just about getting the maximum ADA. One way or another, if suspensions are to be used only after a long list of other interventions have been exhausted, SFUSD will have to provide the financing necessary to implement those supports or their resolution will surely fail when administrators find themselves at their wit's .end to comply with another central office mandate.