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Middle school help starts to bear fruit

Mayor Ed Lee's "adoption" of San Francisco's middle schools is starting to bear fruit, with the mayor saying Thursday he had already raised $2.7 million from private donors to help improve education at what he has described as the steepest "drop-off point in our whole public education system in San Francisco."

Lee has been pretty tight-lipped about specifics on the program but earlier said he wanted to increase parent involvement, have professionals volunteer in schools and use private donations to fund wireless access and table computers for all of the city's middle schools.

"I've gone ahead and adopted all 12 middle schools in San Francisco as being the focus of my philanthropic fundraising so that ... the principals and the teachers are getting all the resources they need to be really successful," Lee said earlier.

Middle schools are where the city sees the most distinct erosion in public education, with kids starting to drop out and many parents becoming less engaged, Lee said.

Much of new money has come from donors, although it's still a fraction of the $40 million in now-drained federal grant funding that had flowed into nine of the city's lowest performing schools in the last three years.

Lee also wants to introduce something similar to the "coder dojo" he saw at Blackrock Castle Observatory on his March trip to Cork, Ireland, where youth were taught computer coding like a foreign language and quickly took to it.

"The kids were creating their own animations," Lee said after the trip. "I could see that 10 years down the road, you've got somebody who is going to be really great in robotics, someone who is going to do animation for Pixar."

- John Coté and Jill Tucker

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