Open Letter to SFUSD Superintendent Wayne and Board of Education

Dear Superintendent Wayne and the Board of Education Commissioners,

What are we doing? New state reading and math proficiency scores should be a red flag for SFUSD

On October 24th, SF Unified published in its news communications to families, educators, and the community that “SFUSD Remains Ahead of State in Students Meeting Standards.” This is in fact good news that, on average, we outperformed districts across the state during the pandemic. However, it omitted an important level of detail: how our Black students fared. In fact, the new state data reveals that SFUSD did worse at educating our Black students during the pandemic, as compared with districts across the state

SFUSD’s scores–the good and bad

We’ll be the first to join you in acknowledging the good news, that San Francisco public schools overall fared pretty well during the pandemic and school closures. Our student proficiency rate in math only dropped by 10%, which isn’t as much as the state’s 16% decline, and SFUSD still scored much higher than the California average. 

However, alarm bells should be blaring once we look beyond the aggregate data to Black student math scores. Black student proficiency in math at SFUSD was already way below the state average before the pandemic and school closures, but dropped dramatically according to the new data, down 33% at SFUSD, versus 22% for the average Black student in California. Now, only 9% of Black SFUSD students are proficient in math, compared to 16% for the state.

It gets worse. Pre-pandemic and school closures, 12% of Black middle schoolers were proficient in math, compared to a state average of 18%. Now, that number has been cut in half, and only 6% of Black middle schoolers are proficient compared to a state average of 14%. In 7th grade, only 2% of Black SFUSD students are proficient in math.

These numbers are devastating, and they should shake all of us to our core.

2021-2022 CAASPP scores – Black SFUSD students 

Overall achievement, ELA, African American students:

Standard exceeded: 9.79% CA, 5.12% SFUSD

Standard met: 19.97% CA, 12.84% SFUSD

Standard nearly met: 23.32% CA, 22.83% SFUSD

Standard not met: 46.91% CA, 59.22%

Overall achievement, Math, African American students:

Standard exceeded: 5.26% CA, 2.75% SFUSD

Standard met: 10.51% CA, 6.33% SFUSD

Standard nearly met: 21.86% CA, 16.90% SFUSD

Standard not met: 62.36% CA, 74.02%

Righting the wrong

It’s past time for adults in San Francisco to come together and do whatever it takes to finally right this wrong. Fact: every child is capable of reading and doing math at grade level. That’s the promise of school, and that’s the promise SFUSD needs to finally fulfill by asking the hard questions about how we got here and what it will really take to change these appalling numbers. These are real kids and real families who deserve bright futures.

SF Parent Coalition is publicly calling on the Board of Education and Superintendent Wayne to better utilize SFUSD’s resources to support our Black students and to make the following commitments:

  • Study schools, districts, and community organizations around the country that have been successful at helping Black students realize their fullest potential. Identify policies and practices that could be replicated in SFUSD.
  • Talk to families and students. Engage Black families and students in SFUSD (and those who have left) to find out what they feel is working and what is not working in their schools.
  • Assess district-wide assessment trends, what strategies are working, what are not, and develop a time-bound plan for change.
  • Review each school’s SPSA (Student Plans for Student Achievement) in full and ensure that schools have the support they need to develop strong plans and track progress toward goals. No more approval of blank or copy and paste plans.

This is a fixable problem that should be front and center at every Board of Education and School Site Council meeting. 


SF Parent Coalition Board of Directors

Seth Brenzel, Meredith Dodson, Yvette Edwards, Jennie Herriot-Hatfield, Cliff Yee