Nov 1, 2022 - News

San Francisco education board's new stress on learning

Illustration of answer bubbles on a standardized test answer sheet filled to form the shape of an upward arrow.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The San Francisco Board of Education has set new goals for reading, math and college readiness in an effort to boost student performance and increase system-wide accountability.

Why it matters: With controversy swirling around the board in recent years because of delays in getting kids back into the classroom and its focus on renaming schools, members touted their renewed emphasis on student learning and "outcomes."

  • Their unanimous vote on the new goals was timely as well, with recently released data showing that while SFUSD's rates of math and reading proficiency were above average for California, its numbers had slipped from pre-pandemic levels.

Context: In July, the board started drafting "Vision, Values, Goals, and Guardrails," a document meant to guide its short-term decision-making and communicate broader ambitions.

  • The board said it received input from nearly 1,000 people as part of its "listening sessions" and online survey, which helped them edit elements of their plan.

By the numbers: The board zeroed in on three metrics.

  • First, it wants to see third-grade literacy levels improve from the 52% proficiency rate noted this October, to 70% proficiency by October 2027.
  • The board also wants eighth-grade math proficiency to move from 42% to 65% in five years.
  • And it's pushing for the number of 12th grade students who are college- or career-ready to increase from 57.5% as of June 2020, to 70% by June 2027.

What they're saying: "As we continue to rebuild trust with the community, the Board's adoption of the vision, values, goals, and guardrails will help provide a North Star to provide an excellent and equitable education for all of our students," SFUSD superintendent Matt Wayne said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the Board and staff to make SFUSD's vision and values come to life."

The other side: During last week's meeting, Thor Boucher, principal of Monroe Elementary, questioned the board's outreach process, saying that a majority of administrators who are part of UASF union, did not recall receiving a survey asking for their input.

  • "What voices do we still need to hear from?" Boucher asked.
  • Others wondered why the goals were set for entire grades and not broken out by demographics, worrying that some schools, in order to reach their goals, would be incentivized to "push out" students who were underperforming.
  • The board said more nuanced concerns would be addressed in the interim goals, which will be set by Wayne in the coming months.

The intrigue: Though the board appeared united on its goals framework last week, there could soon be a shake-up, given that three out of seven seats are up for grabs in the upcoming election.


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