Dear Superintendent Dr. Wayne and SFUSD Board of Education,
Parents, educators, community members, and supporters of math and reading equity and excellence have six requests for SFUSD district leadership to ensure we are improving access to high-quality education for every SFUSD student, starting with our youngest learners in elementary school. You’ve been starting to receive these emails already, and below you’ll find the requests with a bit more detail added. While the SF Kids Can’t Wait report shows that there are some bright spots across our district, we have a long way to go to ensure that an excellent education is the norm across our city and that SFUSD has a strong culture of high expectations for ourselves and for our students.
Thank you to the commissioners who have already started to set up briefings with us to learn more about the Kids Can’t Wait campaign. We hope to bring our parent leaders from across SFUSD to meet with every one of you, including Superintendent Dr. Wayne. We would like to hear the district’s plans and timeline to achieve each of these urgent goals, below. SF’s kids cannot wait.
- Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, ensure each and every elementary student who is behind grade level in reading and/or math receives small group instruction or tutoring using targeted researched-based practices. Research supports that high-dosage tutoring can be deeply impactful for students who are not achieving on grade level yet, and this is a critical investment to help students who have not been served well catch up to their peers. We know many students are not getting the interventions they need. SFUSD must commit to every student receiving the interventions they deserve.
- We ask that SFUSD purchase and use high-quality, evidence-based instructional materials and practices so that every elementary student can learn to read proficiently. This means that we need to immediately stop debunked reading instruction practices like three-cueing, discontinue the use of the Fountas & Pinnell Assessment, and eliminate the lessons and instructional activities that focus on this (mostly coming from Calkins Units of Student, Fountas & Pinnell Classroom, and LLI). This requires an investment of resources, because to do curriculum implementation well, we must purchase materials and assessments, provide training, hire substitute teachers, monitor progress, etc. This is urgent work, and yet it’s also critical to avoid adopting a sub-par curriculum.
- We ask that SFUSD regularly hold teacher professional development on the science of reading, offered regularly and immediately, and compensate our teachers well for this time. We need to stop being scared to say “science of reading” at SFUSD; all it means is “systematic and structured approaches to early literacy” or “evidence-based reading instruction.” All SFUSD teachers deserve access to high-quality professional learning about the science of reading. Many are already experts on this topic and could be part of the solution to help train their colleagues. This time must be compensated, especially given the extended strife over employee payroll in SFUSD over the last year. Where possible, use strong, proven outside partners for the training to avoid recreating the wheel.
- We ask that SFUSD expedite its audit, evaluation, and pilot of K-8 math instructional materials and practices. A lengthy math audit is not needed to begin to improve our math program and practices; only 46% of SFUSD students are proficient in math and our equity gap has widened over recent years–SF’s kids need us adults to make changes now. SFUSD should cut the timeline for changes in half (or more), and immediately begin offering well-compensated professional development in research-based math instructional practices. SFUSD should also ensure a cohesive and equitable high school math course sequencing, so that all students have access to the courses and careers of their choice. The current math model imposes inequitable barriers on historically underserved communities.
- Increase teacher and paraprofessional pay and develop more effective retention and recruitment processes. None of the goals we have for our students in reading and math can be achieved without a stable, skilled teaching force that is appropriately compensated and supported.
- Ask families and students how they want to be involved in this work, and share regular updates with families about the work you are doing to improve math and literacy outcomes. Don’t make assumptions about how families and students want to be engaged. Ask us – we have ideas! This approach will lead to better family and student engagement and ultimately better outcomes for all students. Don’t wait to share important evaluative reports such as the TNTP literacy audit which was held for almost a year before sharing publicly. Continue to share updates about the curriculum pilot process, including what the district is looking for during the pilots and how the district will make the final selection. We invite SFUSD staff to join our regular meetings with families and caregivers as one way to share those updates and to authentically engage families in the process.
We look forward to upcoming meetings with each of you to discuss SF Kids Can’t Wait and to learning more about SFUSD’s commitment to acting with greater urgency and taking bold measures for our 50,000 students.