Tuesday, August 27, 2013

High school career-path program helped San Francisco woman find calling

Counselor Olivia Leung patrols the hallway at Aptos Middle School, where she helps kids make the transition to high school. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
Mike Koozmin/The S.f. Examiner
Counselor Olivia Leung patrols the hallway at Aptos Middle School,
where she helps kids make the transition to high school.
When Olivia Leung attended Abraham Lincoln High School, she knew she wanted to work with children one day, but wasn't sure in what capacity. After enrolling in Career Academies and Pathways, she found her calling.
Leung now works as a sixth-grade counselor at Aptos Middle School near the Ocean Avenue corridor. This school year is her first as a full-time counselor, and she credits the courses she took in the academy for steering her on her career path.

"You might have an interest, but you might not know your passion," Leung said of participating in the courses. "It doesn't hurt to try."

Career Academies and Pathways are programs aimed at offering experiences and career exploration. Starting in their sophomore years, students spend three years taking elective and core classes that focus on a certain career or field of study. During summer months, students volunteer at jobs within their fields of interest. Academies vary in subject matter, from the education, childhood development and family services programs Leung enrolled in to building and trades, hospitality and tourism, and information technology.

The San Francisco Unified School District currently offers eight different academies at eight high schools, with some offering more than one. All courses count toward high school graduation requirements, district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

For Leung, when a friend mentioned to her the possibility of taking the academy course, she became curious.
Leung said she was always a good student and enjoyed learning, but nothing sparked her interest until she enrolled in the academy courses, which opened her eyes to psychology.

Leung graduated from Lincoln High in 2006, then earned a bachelor's degree from UC Santa Cruz. She completed her master's in pupil personnel services at the University of San Francisco in May.

While in college, Leung interned at Leadership High School in Balboa Park and Marina Middle School. At both schools, she continued to learn more about the field of counseling. Though she hopes to one day return to high school counseling, Leung said she's enjoying helping kids transition from elementary school to middle school.

"I have a fondness for sixth-graders," she said. "They have so much room for growth."

As Leung settles into her role at Aptos, she hopes to be a resource for the community both in and outside of school.

"I've always wanted to come back to San Francisco and give back to the community by helping these kids," she said.

Friday, August 9, 2013

San Francisco schools expanding outdoor classroom program

Education Outside
Photo courtesy of Paige GreenCorps member Kelly Nichols works with students as a part of Education Outside,
an expanding program in The City.

By Andrea Koskey | SF Examiner

Thousands of students in 22 San Francisco elementary schools will return to class this fall with a new piece of curriculum: outdoor education.

The San Francisco Unified School District began a partnership in the 2010-11 school year with Education Outside to provide instructors and curriculum at school sites that had existing gardens and make them outdoor classrooms for three years. The partnership began in four campuses and this fall will expand to 22, including both elementary and K-8 sites.

"Our goal is to get kids outside more," said Arden Bucklin-Sporer, executive director for Education Outside. "We focus on science education as a direct response to the idea that urban youth have a disconnection to the outside world."

The program focuses on science and sustainability in order to provide hands-on learning for students. For instance, students could be using measuring devices in the garden, journaling or calculating volumes of compost.

Education Outside runs on a $2 million budget to supply a small stipend and benefits to its instructors, known as corps members, to run the courses. The goal is to give each student roughly 45 minutes in the outdoor classroom each week, but the job doesn't end there for corps members.

Bucklin-Sporer said they also "hold the reins for all sustainability at the school," meaning the corps members help run the compost program in the school lunchroom and work with the school community to reduce waste and water consumption.

Bucklin-Sporer said traditionally these green spaces at schools were looked at as just community gardens, but Education Outside believes they can be something more.

"It is great to use it as a place to grow food," she said. "But it can go much deeper than that. We think outdoor classrooms are a great opportunity to learn math, science and literacy while growing food."

Mary Lou Cranna, principal of Jefferson Elementary School where Education Outside already has a program, is featured in a video made by the organization in which she says the curriculum is important to students: "It's beyond reading and writing, it's beyond bubbling, it's experiential based. It bodes well for holistic learning."

Green spaces at schools began appearing after a bond was passed by voters in 2003 to provide SFUSD with money to upgrade aging facilities. In that bond, along with bonds in 2006 and 2011, has brought the district $14 million for construction of green spaces and gardens.

Bucklin-Sporer said schools with gardens can petition Education Outside to provide a corps member. The organization's goal is to expand to 84 schools.

Scores rise at S.F. schools getting U.S. grant

9 S.F. schools get extra money - but grant to end

San Francisco education officials don't need a calculator to figure out that poor-performing schools plus millions of dollars often equals better test scores.

The latest California Standardized Testing and Reporting results, released Thursday, show that statewide scores dipped slightly, and students locally saw minimal change. By contrast, the nine San Francisco schools that have received about $45 million in federal grants over three years continued to show improvement.

But the Obama administration's School Improvement Grants, also received by 92 schools in the state and 1,300 nationwide, will end this year. That leaves the future of the nine schools - which hired 70 staff members and paid for computers, summer school classes and social workers - uncertain.

"That's the million-dollar question," said Guadalupe Guerrero, a deputy superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. "The windfall allowed us to invest in underserved communities, but what will we do when the well runs dry?"

Guerrero said that while San Francisco can't match the departing federal funds dollar for dollar, the district has set aside funds to maintain some of the most critical additions to the schools, such as instructional coaches, school support staff and family liaisons.

"We wanted to be careful in not experiencing this cliff that SIG would be," Guerrero said. "We've made a commitment in our resources to continue support to these schools."

Paul Revere School, a K-8 in Bernal Heights, had to replace its principal to receive $5.3 million. Since 2011, the percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient on their English tests has jumped from 30.9 percent to 48.4 percent, and in math, the percentage rose from 39.6 percent to 67.4 percent.

Overall, English proficiency is up 7 percent over three years and math is up 14 percent at San Francisco SIG schools.

A few SIG schools were not as successful. Cesar Chavez Elementary School was awarded about $5.2 million in grants, but students scoring proficient or advanced in English dropped from 29.4 percent in 2011 to 25.7 percent in 2013, though math scores rose five percentage points to 44.3 percent.

Guerrero said schools with a high percentage of English language learners can struggle, but noted that attendance and graduation rates at the schools have increased, while suspensions have dropped.

"Schools that have been historically underserved don't on a dime turn around," he said. Citywide, San Francisco students improved by 0.2 percentage points in math, with 57.4 percent of students scoring at least proficient. But English proficiency dropped 0.3 percentage points to 60.2 percent.

"When looking at student achievement, the most informative perspective is to see trends and how students perform over time, not just one year of growth," Superintendent Richard Carranza said in a statement. "It's important to note that our students have made significant gains in English over the past five years, and a positive growth trend continues in math."

Oakland students had a sharper dip in scores. English proficiency fell to 43 percent from 45.1 percent last year, and math dropped to 41.4 percent from 44.5 percent.

Across the state, scores dropped slightly for the first time in 10 years, which officials blamed on budget cuts and a transition to the new Common Core curriculum. English scores dropped almost a full percentage point to 56.4 percent, down from 57.2 last year, and math proficiency went down 0.3 percentage points to 51.2 percent.

"As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school, but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges," said Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, in a statement.

Full state and local standardized test scores can be found at http://cde.ca.gov.