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


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

Tackling the teacher shortage

By now, you’re probably well aware of the nationwide teacher shortage. Largely due to a dramatic decrease in the number of new teachers entering the profession, SFUSD, like many school districts, has faced challenges filling hard-to-staff teacher vacancies in certain credential areas including bilingual and special education.

We’re tackling this issue head on. At the beginning of the school year, we offered signing bonuses for the first time in recent history for special education teachers and aides. And just a few weeks ago, we launched Pathway to Teaching, a new credentialing program sponsored by SFUSD to recruit individuals who are already making a difference in their communities, but who may not have the flexibility to switch to a new career in teaching without support.

Designed to be affordable and accessible, SFUSD Pathway to Teaching will allow aspiring teachers to earn a full salary as they work toward their credential. If you know someone who would be a great teacher--nominate them or encourage them to apply to the program by Jan. 16.

And, since the teacher shortage goes hand-in-hand with San Francisco’s high cost of housing, we’re working with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and other community groups to provide housing resources and aid for educators.

We also have other programs for prospective teachers, from our Para to Teacher Program for paraprofessionals to the San Francisco Teacher Residency, where credential candidates complete coursework at local universities while in a yearlong apprenticeship with a master teacher.

What does the Board of Education do, exactly?

In our local elections this fall, you may have noticed a long list of familiar -- and not so familiar -- names of people running for the San Francisco Board of Education. We hope you were able to take part in the election, because choosing these board members makes a difference in your child’s education.

What they do

First, the basics: the Board of Education determines policy for all PreK/TK-12 public schools in the San Francisco Unified School District, which serves the City and County of San Francisco. We have seven Board commissioners, who are elected by San Francisco voters and serve four-year terms. To run for the office a candidate must be a resident, and registered to vote, in San Francisco. Elected commissioners are not full-time employees of the school district, but are paid a stipend of $6,000 per year.

The Board can establish graduation requirements and course offerings above and beyond those required by the state. For example, the Board recently passed a resolution for all high schools to provide ethnic studies classes. It also approves equipment purchases, supplies, services, leases, renovations, construction, and labor union contracts. In addition to those responsibilities, the Board confirms appointments of SFUSD’s senior staff, including the superintendent.

Nothing can happen without resources so, perhaps most significantly, the Board approves SFUSD’s annual budget, which is independent of the city's budget and comes with hefty state and federal requirements. It is due to the state at the end of June every year. In addition to the annual budget, the Board also approves SFUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is a plan that details how SFUSD supports high-needs students and is created with input from staff, student and family advisory groups, and community organizations.

Ground-breaking policies

You have probably have heard a little about our PreK-12 Computer Science curriculum, our University of California approved graduation requirements, and the healthy food in our cafeterias. These are just a few examples of progress SFUSD has made in recent years under the direction of the Board of Education.

Want a deeper dive into Board decisions? Take a look at the online archive.

Hiring a new superintendent

The Board of Education is in charge of setting policies and approving spending, but for leading strategic implementation of the District's vision and the day-to-day operations, the Board appoints a superintendent of schools. This past fall, when Superintendent Richard Carranza was chosen to lead Houston’s public schools, hiring a new superintendent for SFUSD was placed high on the Board’s to-do list.

Since then, the Board has been following a selection process and plan to hire a superintendent in a timely manner. Meanwhile, Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh was asked to fill the role.

How you can stay informed - and inform us

Our Board of Education meets regularly throughout the year, with a few exceptions for holidays and other breaks. These meetings are often filled with reports from various school district departments and committees. For example, Pupil Services makes routine presentations to the Board on SFUSD’s truancy and graduation rates, along with other vital student statistics, while Facilities will update commissioners on school renovations.

Unless marked otherwise, all Board meetings are open to the public, and all have a time set aside for anyone to make comments to the Board regarding SFUSD issues.  If you’d like to make a comment, you do not have to be on the agenda, and you have two minutes to speak directly to commissioners. However, due to state law, the Board cannot converse with you directly during your presentation. To sign up, there are cards in the Boardroom lobby you can fill out prior to each meeting.

Can’t make it in person? The meetings are broadcast live and archived online.

Who’s new? 

Below are links to information and news about our new and returning commissioners, as well as a look at those who are moving on this year.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Acceptance, tolerance, and bullying: Facts and resources for parents

Feeling safe and included at school is fundamental for learning.

During the first week of December, SFUSD celebrates Inclusive Schools Week to bring more awareness to what being truly inclusive means.

Creating a safe environment at school

Here are some of the things our School Health Programs department does to help create safe schools:

  • Social workers, counselors, nurses, and other support staff address the social-emotional needs of students. 
  • Violence prevention lessons are taught as part of a comprehensive health education throughout the district. 
  • Mentoring programs are coordinated by district nurses and social workers. 
  • All students are encouraged to report incidences of bullying or other safety concerns to a trusted adult at school. 
  • Schoolwide events raise and sustain awareness about safety at all schools. 

How to talk to your child about bullying or feeling excluded

First of all, bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior done by someone who has real or perceived power over someone else. This behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

Parents, school staff and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. You can:

  • Talk about what bullying is (see above) and how to stand up to it safely, such as finding a trusted adult and letting them know what happened.
  • Tell your child that bullying is unacceptable--it’s important to say it, even if you feel your child knows this. 
  • Talk with your child about all ways to get help if they see bullying. 

What about bullying online?

If you child is online, their chances of finding cyberbullies, haters and trolls is, sadly, quite high. Common Sense Media provides many useful suggestions for handling this. You will find guidelines, videos and articles to help with tough conversations.

What is tolerance?

We are a community that believes that each child and each person is the equal of every other. This belief cuts across race, nationality, immigration history, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic means, ability status, language, and age.

When we talk about tolerance in schools, we mean that people should accept people for who they are and treat them how they wish to be treated. Tolerance is about being inclusive and welcoming, not about accepting bad behavior or allowing it to continue.

You can talk with your child about ways to be inclusive and tolerant, such as:

  • Inviting someone they don’t know well to sit with them at lunch 
  • Smiling at someone who seems shy 
  • Noticing things they have in common with other kids who may not look or dress like them 
Get some more suggestions, or work with your child to come up with other inventive ways to reach out to people. Even if their actions don’t spark a friendship, it’s still good practice toward being part of an inclusive school environment and society.

Download student-made Inclusive Schools Week posters