Thursday, April 26, 2012

UCSF and SFUSD Collaborate to Prepare Students for College

Community Outreach Program Aims to Boost Graduation Rates

By Patricia Yollin on April 26, 2012

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Stacy Wong and Matthew Dabit, both 18, and aspiring UC college students, participate in FRISCO Day at UCSF Mission Bay, a program designed to help high school students manage the transition from high school to college.

Heading off to college is almost always daunting, even for the most accomplished high school students. That’s why about 500 San Francisco seniors flocked to UCSF Mission Bay recently for something called FRISCO Day.

Friday Successful College Options Day, now in its second year, gives graduating students a sense of what lies ahead so that they’ll be better equipped to deal with the unknown, said Orlando Elizondo, director of the partnership between San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and UCSF.

The Mission Bay gathering, co-hosted by UCSF’s Student Academic Affairs and Community and Government Relations, was aimed at seniors who will be going to one of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses. Separate non-UC events are preparing students bound for City College, San Francisco State, colleges outside California or private colleges. The shared goal is the same: Lowering the college dropout rate.

Donald Woodson, deputy director of Student Academic Affairs at UCSF
Donald Woodson, deputy director of Student Academic Affairs (SAA) at UCSF, moderates a conference for high school seniors from the San Francisco Unified School District, at UCSF Mission Bay.

“You can get information anywhere,” said Donald Woodson, deputy director of UCSF’s Center for Educational Partnerships. “But what about when you leave your friends and your family? Things that are internal. We wanted to make sure it hit home.”

It definitely did, judging by the reaction of students during and after the five-hour session on April 13, which covered financial aid, social/family transitions and academic competency. Woodson led them through the day with energy and spirit.

Overcoming Life's Obstacles

Richard Carranza, then-deputy superintendent of SFUSD, described the obstacles he had faced in college. And a small group from UC Berkeley’s Student Life Advising Services spoke of potential hurdles in a way that struck a chord.

“It’s not real until you hear from someone who’s gone through it,” said Balboa High senior Jasmine Minato, who is a mix of Filipino, African American, Swedish and Japanese and worries about encountering culture shock at UC San Diego. “We were all so empowered by Ruben’s story.”

She was referring to Ruben Canedo, who will graduate from Cal with degrees in social welfare and ethnic studies and three job offers. Entertaining and charismatic, he had the room alternately laughing and close to tears as he talked about a life of ups and downs.

Ruben Elias Canedo Sanchez, a research and mobilization coordinator at UC Berkel
Ruben Elias Canedo Sanchez, a research and mobilization coordinator at UC Berkeley, delivers an inspirational speech to aspiring college students at a community outreach event for high school seniors at UCSF Mission Bay.

Canedo was born in Mexico and later moved to Calexico, a border town. His mother was an undocumented immigrant and he went to a terrible high school. His tuition was covered but he worked four jobs his first year at Cal to help out his family — which had a household income of $13,000 a year — and barely slept. As a result, he flunked every course his first two semesters.

“That’s because I lost myself,” Canedo said. “... But all those struggles and challenges, were nothing compared to everything my ancestors had to go through way back when.”

Speakers make it clear that students will have to deal with all kinds of things: Navigating a financial aid thicket that includes grants, work/study, loans and scholarships; doing laundry, managing a budget, living with strangers and learning the difference between needs and wants; feeling like an impostor who doesn’t deserve to be at UC; and coping with much larger schools and an unprecedented level of academic rigor.

“I felt like I didn’t need anybody. After three months, you realize, ‘Wait a minute, maybe this isn’t as easy as I thought.’ I decided to turn off my hard-headed stubbornness,” said Jeanette Corona, a second-year Cal student who urged the seniors to seek out counselors and take advantage of the vast array of services UC offers.

Carranza — who was named San Francisco schools superintendent on April 24 — told the seniors that he, like many of them, was the first in his family to go to college. He’d ask himself why he was studying when friends who didn’t advance beyond high school were making lots of money in the Tucson mining industry, which collapsed during his sophomore year at the University of Arizona.

Richard Carranza
Richard Carranza, then-deputy superintendent for the San Francisco Unified School District, inspired high school seniors to find a career they enjoy, at the second annual "FRISCO Day" at UCSF Mission Bay.

And suddenly, his pals’ new cars and trucks were parked on street corners with “for sale” signs. They lost their apartments and had to move back home with their parents. They were selling their fancy electronics gear.

“And I had a job. Better yet, I had a career, something I loved to do,” said Carranza, who noted that the difference between a high school and college degree is worth $1 million over the course of one’s work life.
Afterward, Alex Yu, a Burton High senior accepted at UC Santa Cruz and on the wait list at UC Davis, said being an intern at UCSF’s Science & Health Education Partnership (SEP) program last summer made him more confident about completing assignments and working with people, especially older ones. Still, he has concerns.

“I live with my mom and grandfather, and I’m an only child,” Yu said. “I’m family-oriented and I worry about the impact it will have on them when I’m gone.”


Deputy Richard Carranza picked to lead SF schools

Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle
By: Jill Tucker

 The San Francisco school board avoided an expensive nationwide search for a new superintendent by officially handing the job Tuesday to the district's second-in-command, Richard Carranza.

The board voted unanimously to hire Carranza, 45, agreeing to a three-year contract with an annual salary of $245,000. In addition, he will receive $20,000 in annual housing allowance and $6,000 for a car. The total package comes to $271,000, plus pension and health and life insurance.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia, who plans to retire at the end of the school year, makes $293,000, plus benefits. Carranza will replace him on July 1.

Carranza is expected largely to maintain the status quo by continuing Garcia's effort to focus resources on the district schools that are struggling the most. For example, he played a large role in identifying the 14 "Superintendent Zone" schools that were infused with extra staff and district oversight to help improve test scores.

"We all agree we're heading in the right direction, but at the same time we know we have a lot of work to do," said board President Norman Yee just before the vote. "We didn't want somebody coming in and try to put us on another path. We have found a superintendent who will continue the work we've been doing."

Test scores in those schools have been rising, attendance is up, and the achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their more advantaged white and Asian American peers is starting to close.

"What was happening in San Francisco was just tremendously provocative to me and I wanted to be part of that," Carranza said. "I think if you look at the big picture I think the community is happy with the direction the district is going."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Making kids feel safe keeps them in school

San Francisco Examiner: Letters to the Editor

Kudos to the San Francisco Unified School District for taking a new, restorative approach to school discipline (“Making misbehavior a teachable moment,” April 10). Providing safe learning environments is just as important as keeping our streets safe.

In fact, the two may go hand in hand. Students who are “pushed out” of the classroom all too often fall behind, drop out and end up on a path leading into the criminal justice system. According to a recent study, students who were suspended or expelled were five times more likely to drop out and 11 times more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system than similar students with no record of discipline.

Preventing crime in San Francisco begins with keeping children in the classroom and encouraging them to graduate. Studies have consistently shown that kids who stay in school live 10 years longer and make double the salary of their counterparts. On the negative side, nongraduates are more likely to engage in criminal behavior, serve time in prison and earn a lower wage throughout their lives.

Fortunately, proactive policies, such as the “restorative practices” implemented by the SFUSD, emphasize the importance of building positive relationships while holding kids accountable for their actions. These innovative approaches certainly will go a long way toward keeping these young adults on the right track in life.

Hopefully more school districts in California will follow the lead of the SFUSD.

Gregory P. Suhr
Chief of the San Francisco
Police Department

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

City looks to boost summertime learning

Getty Images file photo
Michelle Jacques-Menegaz is well aware of the slide that children can take during a break from school. In the spring, students are accustomed to school’s routines. But the three months of an unstructured summer can erase that discipline.

“You get back in the fall and it’s like, ‘Oh, I gotta work again?’” said the mother of two San Francisco middle-school students.

Several summers without educational opportunities can add up, especially for children from low-income families. A dearth of summer-learning is responsible for about two-thirds of the test score gap between ninth-graders from richer and poorer families, according to the National Summer Learning Association.

It has become more difficult for families to find educational summer programs, as public summer school has been eroded by state budget cuts. So Jacques-Menegaz cheered a new initiative to bolster summer learning throughout the state.

The Summer Matters 2012 campaign, organized by the nonprofit Partnerships for Children and Youth and supported by state and local agencies, aims to drum up support for summer learning and expand existing programs to serve an additional 50,000 low-income California children each summer.

“We have to make better investments in our children,” said Mayor Ed Lee during a City Hall press conference Tuesday with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “It will never be only the school districts that have that responsibility.”

The mayor, who recently announced a plan to create 5,000 summer jobs for San Francisco youth this year, said he would call on local businesses to join the summer learning effort as well.

So far, The City has promised to help San Francisco Unified School District fund summer school for secondary students through the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. The department helped the district last year as well, and it funds summer programs that will serve about 5,000 children and youth this year.

But almost two-thirds of children won’t participate in a summer program at all, according to department projections.

“We are closing the achievement gap,” said San Francisco Unified School District  Superintendent Carlos Garcia. “That can’t happen unless we’re engaging with youth in the summer.”

Time off from learning

32,000 San Francisco youth who will not participate in a summer program this year
19,000 youth who will participate
11,500 youth whose summer programs will be subsidized by public funding
Source: Department of Children, Youth and Their Families

Tuesday, April 17, 2012