Friday, August 18, 2017

Talking about racism and hate and cultivating bias-free schools

From elementary school classroom circles to high school ethnic studies classes, across the district you can find daily examples of how we are fostering respect for diversity and helping our students develop their global and local identities.

Below is a brief summary of some of what you will see happening in SFUSD and resources for teachers and parents to consult as they discuss recent events in Charlottesville and beyond with children.

Social-emotional learning

Social-emotional learning (SEL) helps students develop their ability to identify and manage their emotions and teaches children ways to get-along with other and develops their ability to identify and manage their emotions. All K-8 students in the district participate in a research-based curriculum called Second Step where they learn self management, self- and social awareness, and relationship skills.

Restorative practices

Restorative practices focus on creating positive relationships in the school community. A restorative approach sees conflict or misbehavior as an opportunity for students to learn about the consequences of their actions, develop empathy with others, and figure out how to make amends in a way that strengthens the community bonds they may have damaged.

Digital citizenship

In our digital citizenship lessons, we include in-depth activities to counter cyberbullying and create a welcoming space for people online. In one lesson, students discuss what it means to be brave and stand up for others both offline and online. They learn to show empathy for those who have been cyberbullied and strategize ways to intervene when peers need help. They also learn to analyze information they find online and how to distinguish between fake news and real news.

Ethnic studies

In 2016, California passed a law that will create ethnic studies programs for all of the state’s public high schools by 2019. But did you know we’ve been offering ethnic studies classes to all our high school students since 2015? Through our partnership with Stanford research, we have found that these classes, which teach students about the history of all Americans and contextualize issues of race and power, engage students and boost attendance and grades.

Resources for parents and educators

Bayview Ignite

Bayview Ignite participants complete a team-building activity focused on effective communication and problem-solving skills
District leaders have made improving the schools in the Bayview a priority, and one issue is that teachers and school leaders in the Bayview neighborhood seldom get a chance to collaborate across schools, even though they often face similar challenges. To this end, they wanted to create a professional learning community and network amongst all Bayview teachers and staff.

On August 9, their dream came true when 125 teachers, counselors and principals gathered for “Bayview Ignite.” Staff from Bret Harte Elementary, Dr. Charles Drew Academy, Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary, Malcolm X Academy and Starr King Elementary agreed to end their summer vacations three days early so they could learn together and strengthen their community ties. Many district leaders joined them.

Bayview Ignite brought together the people who share a common commitment to and passion for serving the students and families in the Bayview. “For these are all of our children. We will either profit or pay for what they become,” read a James Baldwin quote printed in the agenda.

Assistant Superintendent for Cohort 3 Enikia Ford Morthel, one of the organizers of Bayview Ignite, said she wanted participants to walk away with an aligned vision, common strategies and tools for collaboration and planning. Tamitrice Rice Mitchell, Director for Cohort 3, longtime Bayview principal and resident of the community, co-led the institute, which she hopes provided staff a renewed sense of purpose and pride in their shared work.

Participants looked at data about attendance, test scores, school climate, and other indicators of where their schools are excelling and struggling. They discussed approaches to making the curriculum more relevant to students, engaging families and using the workshop model and other effective strategies.

One of the many poignant moments of the institute included a tour of the community. One participant wrote, "I felt a lot of emotions following the community tour. I felt a great sense of pride, but also great sadness. I hope that we all see our students and their families as strong and resilient assets and not people in need of our pity."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Save time and money: School meals are the healthy, easy choice!

Did you know SFUSD offers fresh, healthy meals at all our school campuses? Each meal is prepared on a daily basis and uses quality ingredients that you can feel good about eating. Our meal vendor provides new, kid-tested options each month, and at most middle and high schools, SFUSD prepares delicious meals daily, right on the school campus. We have incorporated new and exciting student-designed recipes this year like a turkey pesto sandwich - yum! We'd love your help encouraging students and staff to try out our new meal options this year. Check every month for our daily menus.

How does the program work?

I'm glad you asked! At about half of our schools, all children eat for free thanks to a program called the Community Eligibility Provision. If your school is on the list, you don’t need to do anything to participate. Just show up and enjoy.

If your school is not on the list, you can apply to participate in the program by using our Multipurpose Family Income Form. Only one form per family is necessary. You can apply online or pick up a paper form in the office of your student's school. We will notify you within 5-7 days whether or not your student qualifies for free meals. If they do not qualify for free meals, they are still more than welcomed to join us daily for breakfast, lunch and (at some schools) supper. Set up an account that your student can charge their meals to at:


Please fill out a Multipurpose Family Income Form regardless of your family's income status! Filling out this form comes with a ton of benefits for your family, your school, and your community. Benefits include:

  • More federal and state dollars for schools
  • Expansion of afterschool and summer meal programs
  • Scholarships for afterschool programs
  • Higher reimbursements prompted by the data will allow Student Nutrition Services to do more for our students


Thank you, and don't hesitate to reach out if you have questions or concerns. Student Nutrition Services can be reached at: schoollunch@sfusd.edu.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Digital Citizenship Week

Join us from April 11-14 for "Digital Citizenship Week"! We'll be featuring activities and lessons throughout the week to show students and adults how to navigate the digital landscape more safely and productively.

Digital citizenship can be understood as "the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use." Although this may sound like a lot, what it really encompasses is how to be aware of what you're doing and what's going on around you while you're online or using technology.

For example, did you know that Congress voted to let broadband companies like Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T sell your personal data without asking for your permission? Or: do you use different passwords for each online account in case a company is hacked? We want you to know how policies and events like this might affect your family's online behavior and what you can do to protect yourselves.

Digital citizenship isn't just about your own safety and security—it's also about creating a safe, secure environment for everyone online. That's why we teach about cyber bullying and online trolls and encourage our students to model respectful and safe behavior online.

Digital Citizenship Week highlights our continuing efforts to create citizens of the future who are able to function successfully in and beyond our communities (Vision 2025). Through lessons, guided discussions, games, and other activities, in partnership with Salesforce and Common Sense Education, SFUSD community members will learn how to become more aware of the norms that apply in an online environment.

Digital tools and social media increase opportunities for SFUSD students, staff and families to communicate, collaborate, create, and think critically about the world around us. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility (even if we're not superheroes!). We are all collectively responsible for considering and modeling best practices as we navigate within these digital environments.

Below, please find games, discussions, videos, and other resources you can use with your family at home to reinforce good digital citizenship practices:

Congratulations, Mission Bears!

Photo by Dennis Lee, SF Examiner

On March 24, the Bears beat the Villa Park Spartans 82-75 in overtime to become the state Division 3 Champions—and the first San Francisco public school team to win a state basketball title!

The win capped off a 35-1 season that included a regional win at top-seeded St. Ignatius and a playoff victory over third-seeded Vanden.

“I could not be more proud,” Mission principal Eric Guthertz said, according to the Mercury News. “Whether they were taking a stand in something they believed in or winning this whole state tournament, to me that is all beautiful and exactly what we want here at Mission High School.”

Congratulations to the players and coaches on an incredible and historic season! 

Read more

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Respecting gender identity

SFUSD was the first school district in the country to pass a policy extending safeguards to our transgender student body, and we are dedicated to continuing to protect our transgender and gender-expansive students.

Although the Trump administration reversed federal guidance that directed public schools to allow students to use the restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identities, both California and SFUSD have policies that support students’ rights to use facilities that correspond with their gender identities. The California Education Code also prohibits discrimination based on disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
  • Read more about Assembly Bill 1266 (California’s policy) 
  • Read Board of Education administrative regulation R5163a (SFUSD’s policy) 

Student rights

Students, know that in California public schools, you have the right to be...

  • Free from bullying, harassment and discrimination 
  • Respected when you dress and express yourself in ways that do not conform to gender stereotypes, with respect to the student dress codes 
  • Affirmed by adults when you declare your pronoun and name that fits your gender identity 
  • Involved in school activities, access spaces such as locker rooms and restrooms, that fits your gender identity 
  • Read more about your rights at school

Resources

Smarter Balanced (SBAC) testing and your child

Photo of study materials from Sourabh, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Tests are an important part of high-quality teaching and learning (sometimes we refer to them as “assessments.”)

Just like class assignments and report cards, tests are a gauge of student progress. They provide information to your child’s school, teacher—and you—about how he or she is progressing toward California’s challenging goals for learning.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment measures what students know in English-language arts and Mathematics.

Just as important, the assessment uses computer-adaptive technology. This means the test automatically generates the next question based on his or her previous answer. This drills down to help teachers understand more precisely where your child is in understanding the subject.

The SBAC is a chance for reflection and growth. Teachers look for areas for improvement, and celebrate each child's accomplishments.

So, not only are assessments a good way to evaluate your child's progress and accomplishments, they also inform teachers, principals and the district as they work to improve teaching and learning.

How to help your child prepare


This year, testing will take place between March 6 and May 26. Check with your child’s school for the dates planned for your child to take the tests. Here are some things to remember:

  • As with every school day, a good night’s sleep helps your child have a successful day at school.
  • Because the tests are not timed, you want to remind your child not to rush through the test.
  • Let your child know that the SBAC is simply a tool to show where students are in their learning - so their teachers can do a better job helping them to learn.
  • Finally, it’s always good to do a practice run (follow the instructions for guest users). You and your child can take turns trying the test out to see what to expect.

Learn more about SFUSD’s assessments.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Actual facts about the SFUSD budget

Photo from Véronique Debord-Lazaro, CC BY-SA 2.0
President Trump has said, "Schools are flush with cash." We know that is not true in California where schools still rank at the bottom nationally in per pupil funding (42nd to be exact). Revenue growth is slowing and mandatory expenditures, like retirement contributions, are growing. Test your knowledge here:

Actual facts about the SFUSD Budget 


  1. Does the state factor in local cost of living in its allocations to school districts?
  2. By what percentage has the average teacher’s salary grown over the past three years?
  3. Does California law require school districts to hold money in reserve?


Answer key 


  1. No.

    Even though San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in California and the whole U.S., local cost of living is not a factor in state or federal funding formulas. LCFF provides a per student base amount that factors in cost of living adjustments at a state level. We then receive two Grade Span Adjustments: (1) Grades K-­3 for smaller average class enrollment and (2) Grades 9­-12 for costs of Career Technical Education coursework. We also receive Supplemental and Concentration Grants for our percentage of students who are English Learners, free and reduced ­price meal program eligible, or foster youth.

  2. By the end of this school year, the average teacher’s salary will have grown by 15% since 2014. After the latest raise implemented in early 2017, the average salary for teachers is $68,130 for 184 work days. This does not include benefits.
  3. Yes.

    SFUSD holds money in reserve as required by law and to even out cash flows. California law requires that every school district of our size holds at least 2% of its overall general fund budget in an unrestricted reserve, aka the Designated Fund Balance (amount varies by district size). SFUSD also holds some additional money in reserve, aka the Undesignated Fund Balance, to help even out cash flows from year to year. This helps to stabilize the district’s budget and support more predictability and better planning. The Designated Fund Balance typically increases or decreases slightly each year to mirror the overall budget. In recent years, SFUSD also increased the Undesignated Fund Balance, given projections that our overall expenses would exceed our overall revenues (primarily due to negotiated salary increases). Now, the district is drawing down on its reserves.

Sanctuary schools

Photo of City Hall from GPSCC BY-SA 2.0
Given President Trump's executive orders related to immigrants and refugees, SFUSD has sought to clarify for families that Mr. Trump’s orders do not have any effect on how we respond to our students’ rights in San Francisco public schools.

We do not ask for students' immigration status when they enroll, and there are existing laws that help keep your children safe while at school regardless of their immigration status. Furthermore, SFUSD staff will not cooperate with any official seeking information about your children absent a court order.

Some have asked if there is a risk of SFUSD losing federal dollars given San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy. At this time, we cannot predict whether or not federal dollars may be withheld as a result of San Francisco and SFUSD sanctuary practices, and SFUSD will pursue legal and political defenses against such proposals or actions. Almost all federal revenue received by the district is tied to specific programs, most notably free and reduced meals programs, preschool, and educational services for students with special needs and schools with high concentrations of low-income students.

SFUSD resources

Resources from community organizations


Please note that this post is not a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an immigration lawyer.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Your family's digital life

Kids spend an increasing amount of time online to learn, communicate and collaborate. To ensure they do so safely and responsibly, it’s important for both families and schools to teach them about issues such as cyber bullying, online privacy managing their digital footprint.

In other words, we want our students to be good digital citizens.

This can be confusing and difficult for families, particularly for those of us who grew up without the pervasive influence of the internet. That’s why we’re being proactive and promoting safe and responsible behavior online, especially with regard to social media:

Digital Citizenship Day

Of course, we want to provide digital citizenship education throughout the year. But to make sure these important lessons reach every child, we have Digital Citizenship Day!

In this districtwide day of learning, every K-12 grader will participate in lessons for their grade level to learn foundational knowledge, ethics and skills around digital citizenship.

Digital Citizenship Advocate Program

We’ve been participating in Digital Citizenship Day for years, but this year, we’re taking a brand new approach with our advocate program. Every school will have teacher advocates, who will be trained in digital citizenship knowledge and skills, and these advocates will ensure that all students receive at least three grade-appropriate lessons throughout the year.

Bringing it back home

It’s great that our students are getting this education, but what about life at home? We know many families worry about how much screen time kids should get, or if they should post about their kids on social media.

Thankfully, we have an expert partner to help us navigate all of this—an organization called Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing trustworthy information and education in this ever-changing world of media and technology.

Take a look at some of the lessons your kids will be diving into—or take advantage of their education for families and get tips on how to be a good model for digital citizenship—at www.commonsensemedia.org.