Friday, August 9, 2013

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.