Tuesday, December 17, 2013

SFUSD's Future Dining Experience


Credit: Courtesy SFUSD & IDEO
Leave it to San Francisco to take the gustatory pleasure of kids seriously. In an effort to raise a cadre of happy, healthy, food-savvy eaters, the San Francisco United School District (SFUSD) switched to a new lunch provider last year. Oakland's Revolution Foods now serves up fresh meals cooked daily—no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives—to students in the district. Vegetarian pasta alfredo; nitrate-free burgers topped with hormone-free cheese—everything is far tastier than the dreaded “mystery meat” at other schools. Using pint-size consultants, and staffing up with employees (like Tunji Elegbede, pictured) who really care, the District has also developed “SFUSD's Future Dining Experience,” a plan to upheave the system with age-tailored approaches to eating: family-style meals for primary schoolers, mobile carts for middle schoolers, and online ordering for high schoolers. San Francisco, we salute you.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SCHOOL STAFF: Ruben Urbina: Athletics to Tech

| Mission Local

This is Mission Local’s first episode of “School Staff” — a series that will profile the people who work in Mission schools but are not classroom teachers.

California parents on school participation

Wealthy parents are more likely to make cookies for bake sales, volunteer in classrooms and be otherwise involved in their children's schools than lower-income mothers and fathers. That's the conclusion of a survey of California public school parents released Thursday.

Yet even parents with greater financial resources are reluctant to spend hours at meetings or on school committees - even though that's where the money decisions are made. Just 1 in 4 parents said they had ever participated in school committees, according to the survey of 1,003 parents.

But with the state putting more budgeting power in the hands of local districts and schools, education leaders have an obligation and an opportunity to bring more parents to the table, said Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource, an Oakland nonprofit education research organization, which sponsored the survey.

The new education funding system is based on student enrollment and gives more money to schools with higher numbers of English learners and low-income students.

The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, requires schools to include parents - and specifically low-income and English-learner parents - in the budgeting process.

"There had been no other poll, really, that drilled down to give us a baseline to see how involved parents are, what the attitudes are to their schools," Freedberg said. "We asked parents what it would take to get more involved."

The answer: Parents want to participate more, but schools need to make it easier, Freedberg said of the results.

"Parents are more likely to cite a lack of time, rather than a lack of interest or a system that is unreceptive to their input, as an obstacle to greater participation in advising and decision-making," the survey concludes.

Parents want translators, advance notice of meetings, weekend options and perhaps most importantly, they want to know their input matters, the poll found.

San Francisco school officials have already been working on that, offering community meetings in various languages to explain the new funding system to parents and encourage involvement. The district already uses a budgeting process that incorporates parent input at each school.

"They know their kids the best," said Myong Leigh, San Francisco Unified deputy superintendent. "That knowledge comes to bear in the school planning discussions. It really helps complement the work the teachers and administrators are doing."

Yet getting parents involved in the new funding process at all schools is a top priority for the California PTA, said state President Colleen You.

"PTA really feels it's absolutely essential that parents are comfortable, engaged and informed," she said. "Every parent has something to offer based on their expertise in being a parent."

Local PTA parent academies are part of the organization's efforts to increase participation, as well as statewide outreach efforts.

"Parents don't automatically become advocates," she said. "But 30 years of research really proves student success improves when parents are involved and engaged."

The survey was taken between Nov. 5 and 12. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Parent participation

A poll of 1,003 public schools parents found:

-- 76 percent of parents overall say they are somewhat or very involved in their children's schools
-- 39 percent of parents with incomes greater than $100,000 said they were very involved in their children's schools compared with 24 percent of parents making less than $30,000.
-- 57 percent of parents said they knew nothing at all about the new state funding formula for schools
-- Two-thirds of parents said time and work schedules were obstacles in participating at their children's schools.
Source: EdSource

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Watch The Award-Winning Anti-Bulling Videos From San Francisco’s Kids

Sasha Lekach | Bay City News via SFAppeal.com

Students from three San Francisco high schools were named winners in
District Attorney George Gascon’s second annual anti-bullying video contest.
 The “Bye Bye Bullying” contest, launched in October, asked participating San Francisco middle and high students to make a 60-second video about cyber bullying.

Forty entries were submitted, and the three winning videos were announced at a ceremony at San Francisco City Hall this afternoon.

Gascon introduced the videos, calling them “powerful” and reflected on his youth as an immigrant with limited English skills getting bullied at school.

“This is a problem that is not going away,” he said about bullying.

He called the video contest a collaboration between youth and adults to help combat the epidemic of online and schoolyard bullying that has a “direct impact on truancy and graduation rates.”

He said bullying can lead to physical attacks and some victims turn to suicide as a reprieve from the vitriol.

The first place award went to Lincoln High School ninth-grader Lillibelle Liang for her video “Part of the 13 Million,” referring to the estimated number of American youths affected by bullying each year.

Lillibelle was in an exam at school today and unable to attend the ceremony to receive a certificate from Gascon and her $250 prize.

The second-place winner was Christopher Pang, a senior at Galileo High School. His video was an overview about what cyber bullying is, where it occurs online and tips for how to prevent it.

He attended today’s event in a Galileo sweatshirt and said after he received his prize, a Jambox wireless speaker set, that it took him several days to create his short clip.

The third-place video, “Love>Hate—Make the Right Choice,” was made by Wallenberg High School 11th-grade students Allison Talker and Amy Johnson.

Allison urged her fellow students to show respect for different types of people.
“It makes no sense to hurt people with your words,” she said.

Her co-creator Amy said she got involved in the project because “it is important for everyone to feel loved and care for.” She said she hopes her short film will “let people know they are not alone.”

The two received baseballs signed by Giants pitcher Javier Lopez and first baseman Brandon Belt.
Judges for the contest included Giants announcer Renel Brooks-Moon, ABC7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings, San Francisco Youth Commissioner Mia Tu Mutch, and Jason Brock, a contestant from season 2 of the TV show “The X Factor.”

Brock attended the awards ceremony and said it was tough to decide which of the videos deserved to win. He called all the entrants winners for sharing messages about resilience and respect.

“So many made me cry,” he said.

Brock said he was bullied as a child, an experience he remembered as “painful and scary.”

The videos were evaluated on quality of presentation, creativity, educational approach, and the overall message conveyed.

A party to celebrate the work created by all contestants will be held Monday.

Monday, December 2, 2013

S.F. Middle Schools Use ‘Innovation’ Gift to Beef Up Student Tech

Students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in San Francisco
complete a science assignment using iPads. (Ana Tintocalis/KQED)

San Francisco middle schools are in the midst of spending the largest gift ever given to the district.

In October, Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff dropped a cool $2.7 million into the San Francisco Unified School District, with the only requirement being the money goes toward “innovation.”

The district will use about half of the money to beef up its technology infrastructure. The rest will go to 12 middle school principals, each of whom is getting a $100,000 grant.

Those principals are now trying to parlay the money into real change.

“One hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money,” said Tony Payne, principal of Presidio Middle School, in the Outer Richmond neighborhood near the Presidio. “The first thing to do is get over the shock. Now, I’m looking at how to get the biggest bang for the money.”

Presidio students consistently post high marks on state tests. Kids began using iPads at Presidio three years ago. Payne now plans to use his innovation grant to add to his already solid academic program.

“After school we started a robotics club. … Part of the grant will also go to strengthening and building on our outdoor education program,” Payne said. Payne is also investing the money in a zero-period science class just for girls of color.

The situation is very different across town at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.

King, located in the city’s Portola neighborhood near the intersection of Highways 101 and 280, is a more typical urban school because it serves a large number of at-risk students. Roughly 80 percent of students at the school are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program.

Principal Natalie Eberhard says unlike students at Presidio and private schools, most of her students don’t have an Internet connection at home, let alone their own laptop computer.

“That’s a huge equity gap,” Eberhard said. “What is exciting about this (grant) is that it is an opportunity for us to jump over that gap.”

Eberhard is using the grant to put iPads in all of her science classes.

Students at King are more engaged in these classes now that the tablets have arrived. However, teachers believe the real challenge is to make sure the device is not just replacing paper and pencil.

“(The iPads) come with a great expectation,” says science teacher Kristin La. “We can’t just use them to go on Wikipedia.”

La says her goal is to use the device so students can work together and teach one another. She and other educators say they need much more training so they can take advantage of all the educational apps that now exist for the iPad in their classroom.

Education tech expert Steven Anderson says “tech training” is best taught when information is spread out in bits and pieces over the entire year. He believes the best classroom projects allow students to use technology to investigate issues that are “meaningful” in their lives.

Anderson points to one class in North Carolina that used technology to analyze economic data, and conduct science experiments. The class was investigating the impact of a proposed high school stadium in their neighborhood. They ended up writing letters to their city council.

“The kids are now talking about things you’d never think they would talk about because they’re engaged. … (The issue) has meaning to them,” Anderson said.

Middle school principals like Natalie Eberhard like the idea of revamping instruction using technology. Eberhard thinks this grant will be a catalyst for real change.

“The reality is that the present system hasn’t been giving the students here at MLK what they need to succeed. The idea of being able to blow up the box is like, ‘Thank God! Hallelujah! Finally.’”

If the district’s middle school principals can blow up that box in ways that produce real academic results, SFUSD officials expect Bay Area tech giants will be even more willing to share their wealth in the name of changing education.