If one ever doubted the importance of parent advocacy to improve public education, here’s another moment illustrating how parents in San Francisco are turning things around and achieving real education wins for kids.
Earlier this month, Columbia University announced that the failed reading program–the Teachers College Writing and Reading Project (TCWRP) led by Lucy Calkins– was officially dissolved at Teacher’s College. This is the reading program still in our SFUSD elementary schools—but thanks to SF Parent Coalition and partners, it is in the process of being replaced. We played a major role in overhauling this ineffective, outdated program and putting the district back on the right track for kids.
For those newer to our work and impact, here’s a timeline of this important victory, and how parents overhauled a program that failed too many SF kids, particularly those from historically marginalized backgrounds:
- SF Parent Coalition launched a literacy committee of parents, caregivers, and educators to explore the reasons behind SFUSD’s challenged student literacy outcomes and the extreme racially predictive equity gap
- SFUSD began an audit and evaluation of its literacy program, supported by external partner, TNTP
- SF Parent Coalition and SF Ed Fund co-hosted a parent forum on literacy with SFUSD’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Nicole Priestly and staff, to request transparency with the audit findings and to friendly-pressure SFUSD to overhaul its problematic reading and writing program
- The New York Times published a major article covering the discredited Lucy Calkins reading and writing program
- TNTP audit of SFUSD’s literacy program found that over 90% of SFUSD classroom instruction did not incorporate grade-level reading foundations, due to the district’s outdated curriculum and materials
- SF Parent Coalition launched Literacy For All campaign, calling on SFUSD to move on from the reading and writing program that failed too many SF kids. Parents mailed Literacy For All postcards, signed petitions, and SF Parent Coalition hand delivered hundreds of signatures to SFUSD Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Wayne
- SF Parent Coalition partnered with SF Education Fund and Decoding Dyslexia CA to host a screening of The Right to Read documentary at SF Public Library, including an important forum with national literacy activist Kareem Weaver, School Board President Jenny Lam, SFUSD Principal of MLK Middle School Michael Essien, and Educator Doug Rich
- SFUSD announced its commitment to a major overhaul of its PK-5 literacy program
January 2023 –> Present
- SFUSD began piloting two curricula programs, Benchmark and Into Reading, in early grades. Administrators and teachers received compensated professional development training on Science of Reading, on the challenges with current program, and rationale for changes ahead. The unreliable F&P assessment tool was replaced by STAR assessment for greater predictive results in identifying student reading levels and giving better information to teachers
Now, the power of parents is great, but the work is far from over. There’s a commitment to improvement, and some changes are in the works, but we have a long way to go before we see improvements in student outcomes, like they are seeing in some nearby districts that started this work a few years before SFUSD. We are still advocating, because SF Kids Can’t Wait, and we need you to stay involved.
Related to our literacy advocacy, we are excited to share a NEW resource for parents of elementary-aged students, our Literacy Guide for Parents. The one-page guide and the longer guide empower parents and caregivers to support their students’ reading journey and understand if their students are on track. Check it out today and share it with a few friends, especially those in the early elementary grades.
Switching gears to the FUN stuff, we hope to see you this Saturday 9/23 at Balboa Park for our Family Fun Fest! Join us anytime between 12-3pm. Free food, activities for kids, and information for families. Thanks to SFUSD, DCYF, Rec & Parks for helping us make this happen, and SFUSD parent advisories like DELAC and AAPAC for bringing important information to families. Please RSVP here if you plan to attend, and/or email [email protected] if you’d like to help us out and volunteer!
Next up, we’re due for a Board of Education Report! Last week, the BOE met and discussed these major topics of interest to families:
- The Payroll State of Emergency was addressed by Superintendent Dr. Wayne; including the possibility that SFUSD may move on from the non-functioning platform to find a new, functioning one that pays teachers and staff fully and on time.
- Parent Advisory Councils (PAC) get a revamp! These advisory bodies bring important parent voice to decision-making at the district, although some have had a challenged history. There is strong parent support for operational and structural improvements to district PAC and for how seats are filled (parent nominations vs. board appointments). We’re also glad to see that SFUSD is creating specific parent groups for Latinx, Asian American, and Queer Transgender (QT PAC) families.
- Prepping for a big $1B Facilities Bond ask from taxpayers: Both the BOE and the public expressed a high amount of skepticism about asking taxpayers for upwards of $1B for SFUSD school facilities, when there’s still so much mistrust of the district. At the same time, many schools require MAJOR fixes, everything from electrical safety measures, working heat and ventilation, and more. Parents know SFUSD needs this bond, we just hope the district can manage the fund responsibly.
- The BOE & Dr. Wayne discussed the Civil Grand Jury findings from this past June, that 25% of teachers in SF public schools are not fully credentialed and 10% of teacher assignments are deemed “ineffective.” SF Parents also dug into the data and found that schools primarily attended by Black, Latino/x or low-income SF students have fewer credentialed teachers compared to other SFUSD schools. SFUSD needs to do better with hiring, retaining, and providing better working conditions for teachers. And, we need to think harder about teacher placement across SFUSD.
Tune in next week, Tuesday 9/26 at 6:30 pm at 555 Franklin St., to hear from the Board of Education and Dr. Wayne as they dive into the Vision, Values, Goals and Guardrails plan. Our take? We see words on paper, but we don’t yet see a real plan to improve math and reading outcomes for kids. We will be there, calling on them to enact one! Never been to a Board of Education meeting? Email us at [email protected] to join us.
High School Task Force
The SFUSD High School Task Force is scheduled to make recommendations to Superintendent Dr. Wayne on Thursday, September 28 about what the community wants and needs from our high schools. This should include recommendations to improve policies, practices, and programs that will lead to better student outcomes and increased career and college readiness. The recommendations will also examine admissions policies for comprehensive and selectively enrolled high schools.
We believe that all students from all backgrounds at each and every SFUSD high school should receive a high-quality education with the instruction opportunities and supports that will prepare them for college, career and beyond. We will examine the Task Force report closely to ensure that needs and strengths of all high schools and their students and families are included and addressed. Based on the Task Force consultant’s preliminary report, we are hearing the parent buzz from you all and questions such as:
Do these recommendations address parent concerns about lowered educational standards and curriculum challenges at many high schools?
The report named a number of strategies to improve “deeper learning.” Are these evidence-based strategies and what does the data show?
What evidence is the Task Force and SFUSD using to promote the idea of community schools at the high school level?
- What should we take away from a student survey versus the viewpoints of other stakeholders, including parents, who are key decision makers in where their children enroll in high school and who are invested deeply in setting up their children for college, career, and life success?
Given the district’s questionable track record with task forces and advisory bodies, we understand the criticisms out there of the High School Task Force so far, and recommend checking out this recent piece by a regular Board of Education watchdog, Laurance Lee.
We just hope this $500,000 isn’t a missed opportunity for our district to focus on and make comprehensive recommendations for ensuring robust academics, extracurriculars, and student support services that will ensure all of our 12 high schools shine.
📝 Have a current 8th grader applying to high school for 2024-25? Check out SFUSD’s High School Matrix. (And thank you Commissioner Lainie Motamedi for making this happen!) Have questions about our high schools or want to get connected to other current high school families? Email [email protected] to join our middle and high school community.
Parent Voice opportunities
School Site Council Summit — DID YOU KNOW? Regardless of if you’re on your School Site Council, you can attend their regular meetings. Look around for notices of meetings, or ask your principal! If you’re interested to learn more about what SSCs do and why they are important, join SF Parent Coalition in attending the upcoming School Site Council Summit hosted by SFUSD, on Saturday October 14th, 8:30am-1pm at Everette Middle School
Student Success Fund Advisory –– This fund, approved by taxpayers in November 2022 in part thanks to SF Parents mobilization for “Prop G,” will bring up to $60M a year to public schools to support thriving students. Parent voice is a critical voice in ensuring success of implementation. Apply to join this body today!
Board of Education Fellows Program (APPLICATIONS OPEN!) — Hosted by our sister arm, SF Parent Action, this 5-session Board of Ed Bootcamp Fellowship program trains parents on what it takes to be an effective Board of Education commissioner. Have you ever thought be a great student-centered leader on the school board? Apply for the fellowship today! Ten phenomenal parent leaders completed our inaugural program this past spring, and we’re so excited to launch Cohort #2!
Phew! This was a long one. What else are you wondering about? Let us know what you’d like to read about in a future SF Parents newsletter. Email us at [email protected]
Meredith & the growing Team at SF Parent Coalition 🎉
SF Parent Coalition centers the needs of children and youth in San Francisco public schools by bringing together a diverse network of parents and caregivers to advocate for a thriving, equitable school system.
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