Friday, December 19, 2014

Thirty-eight new National Board Certified teachers

With 252 National Board Certified teachers now working in SFUSD, the district is growing the number of teachers with this distinction at a faster rate than the national average and has a greater percentage of Board-certified teachers than any other California district.

Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve this certification have met rigorous standards through intensive study, expert evaluation, self-assessment, and peer review. They build a portfolio that includes student work samples, assignments, videos of their teaching, and a thorough analysis of their work. Teachers must demonstrate an ability to meet diverse student needs and show that they collaborate with a learning community outside of their classroom.

National Board Certification also requires several characteristics of its candidates, including that they recognize students as individuals and adjust their teaching methods accordingly, that they treat students equitably, that they master their subject matter, and that they think systematically about their teaching while learning from experience. It is a voluntary program.

All the work submitted by candidates is reviewed by committees of peer educators from across the nation.

Elizabeth MacNab, who teaches second grade at Carver Elementary, says earning the National Board certification was a long process.

“It made me look more closely at my teaching than I ever have before,” said MacNab, who has been teaching for 13 years. “The process makes you so much more aware of what you are doing and why.”

She added, “It’s not about becoming a perfect teacher; it’s about figuring out what works for the students and striving toward your goals.”

The 38 new National Board Certified teachers will be honored at the January 13, 2015 SF Board of Education meeting.

Find out more about SFUSD's National Board Support Program.

Correction: SFUSD now has 252 National Board Certified teachers, as opposed to the previously stated 269.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Everyone can code!

SFUSD students—from first grade all the way up to high school—set aside an hour (or more) to learn the basics of computer coding for Hour of Code, a global event to celebrate Computer Science Education Week. Younger students created Lightbot and Code Monkey games. At Thurgood Marshall High School, students enrolled in a game design class showed classmates what they’ve been learning all semester. This districtwide activity is one way SFUSD and our community partners are inspiring success in college and 21st century careers.

Even though it's not officially Computer Science Education Week anymore, anyone can still participate in Hour of Code. Try it out yourself with's Flappy Bird tutorial—no programming knowledge needed! 

We don't limit computer science education to an hour either. The Marshall High class is a two-semester program, and students also participate in events such as Game Design Night with Balboa High's game design class.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mission High’s Dante Club, 8 years and many successes later

Photo: Liz Hafalia / The ChronicleDesigner Khiem Vo (left) and graphic designer Diem Nguyen
(right) work on logos for their 3-D architectural renderings and
design company at La Boulange in San Francisco, Calif.,
on Monday, November 24, 2014.
Eight years ago, they were high school students who spent every Saturday morning together trying to gain a foothold in their adopted country by drinking coffee, eating bagels and studying one of literature’s most revered and difficult masterpieces.

Now, they’re busy professionals — some starting companies, some raising children — who, like most adults, catch up with each other now and then. But they say they credit their beloved high school social studies teacher and her unlikely Dante Club with paving their paths to success.

On March 20, 2006, The Chronicle featured an article about the Dante Club, a group of a dozen students from San Francisco’s Mission High who got together each Saturday at the Morning Due Cafe to read Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy” together over breakfast.

The teenagers, mostly impoverished students who were new arrivals from Mexico, Central America and Asia, were still learning English and finding their way in a big, daunting, urban high school.
Their social studies teacher, Callen Taylor, believed they lacked “cultural currency” compared with their wealthier peers and persuaded them to bring their dictionaries and highlighter pens to puzzle over the difficult work with her every week — just for fun.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teens who fled peril for U.S. get 1st Thanksgiving feast in S.F.

Jill Tucker | November 26, 2014 | SF Chronicle

Photo: Lea Suzuki / The ChronicleAmalia Agustin, 15, and Rodrigo Mejia, 16, look at
a picture volunteer Jennifer Holthaus took of them as they help to prepare a sweet potato
dish for a Thanksgiving meal for new arrivals at S.F.’s Mission High School.

It took 17-year-old Yancarlos Santos Lopez three months to get to America, riding on top of trains, sleeping when and where he could, risking his life to escape an even more dangerous existence in Honduras, where he said gangs either killed boys or recruited them.

He arrived in San Francisco in September — following 40 days in a Texas detention facility — and for the first time in more than four years, he went to school.

At Mission High School, he’s learning how to learn again, how to speak English, and on Tuesday, how to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, his first ever.

In the school’s industrial kitchen, he and several other students put on aprons, got a turkey in the oven, then prepared mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows, and an apple pie.

Most of the students are among the surge of unaccompanied minors who have come to the United States from Central America in the past year. They all have a harrowing tale of how they got here — and why they risked the journey.

More than 57,000 children have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border since October. Most are being placed in California, Texas, Florida or New York. The vast majority of these children come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where gang violence and poverty offer little hope for the future, especially for the boys.

“The gangs,” Yancarlos said in Spanish. “I never wanted to be a part of that, but they come after you. There, they’ll kill somebody and the police don’t do anything. Here, you’re safe.”


SFUSD, teachers' union agree to pay raise

Lyanne Melendez | November 26, 2014 | ABC Ch. 7

Teachers in San Francisco expect to get a nice gift from the school district for the holidays. The district has agreed to a 12 percent raise over three years. The teacher's union was originally asking for a 20 percent raise

The tentative contract agreement is between the school district and the teachers union, United Educators of San Francisco.

"We make about one-third of what teachers make and teachers already don't have the biggest salaries and it's hard to live in the city," said paraprofessional educator Patrick Whelly.

The tentative agreement also includes giving paraprofessionals, who work directly with students with special needs, an additional 3 percent raise if they have worked at least eight years in the district. That brings their three-year salary increase to 15 percent.

"We've been very clear from the beginning and the union has been very clear that they wanted to do something for the paraprofessionals," said Superintendent Richard Carranza.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter break? Perfect time to keep your children learning

December 22 through January 2 is winter break for San Francisco’s public schools, which gives students and teachers a chance to celebrate the holidays with families and get some rest before starting 2015 and a new semester.

But taking a break from the classroom doesn’t necessarily mean the learning stops. In fact, the change in routine can reinforce what students have been studying in school. The time off is the perfect chance to show your children how what they learn in school relates to the everyday world around us.

Sneak in some reading

Are you planning to see some movies during the break? Before heading to the theater, have your children read a review of the movie and ask them to write a review afterward. If you’re more outdoorsy and like to take advantage of our warm winter days here in Northern California, take time to read a map or online guide books before taking heading to the park together.

Leave things around

At home, have newspapers, catalogs and books on the table to spark your children’s interest. Children are naturally curious and will choose good reading material if it’s available.

Do math on Muni

If you’re on Muni, you can have your children count the number of people on the bus, then the number of people holding cell phones. Ask them what percentage of people on the bus are holding cell phones. Or, at the grocery store, head to the bulk foods aisle and ask your children to put a favorite item in a bag, weigh the bag, then figure out how much it will cost based on the price per pound – the suspense at the checkout counter might make the trip more interesting. If you’re in the car for a long trip, you can tell them the speed you are driving and the distance to the next rest stop, then together you can figure out how many minutes it will take to get there.

Set off a spark with a story

This time of year is a natural time to tell family stories. Perhaps relatives will be visiting or calling to say hello, and childhood memories are part of the conversation. Share fun stories from your own childhood. Perhaps talking about a favorite teacher of yours when you were young will spark a conversation about your children’s teachers or special staff members at school. Talking about what they like about school can help the transition back to the classroom in January.

Most importantly, remember that you are your children’s first teacher. Taking time to do a quick math problem just for fun, finding something interesting to read, and talking about school shows them that their education—inside and outside the classroom—is important to you.

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday season!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

SF schools continue to rethink the cafeteria, connect students with local food

By Laura Dudnick | SF Examiner

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Roosevelt Middle School is the first in the SFUSD to revamp the look
of its cafeteria following feedback from students, parents and school staff.
Part of the new setup is a lounge area called Chill Out.
The SFUSD wants to make lunch programs more attractive.
 Seventh-grade student Alex Luu, 12, surveyed the hot-lunch options before him in the Roosevelt Middle School cafeteria on a recent Wednesday: a hamburger or a bean-and-cheese burrito.

He also could have opted for a barbecued-turkey wrap or a salad from the to-go section, but selected the burrito because it "looked much more delicious."

And then came a novel question Luu, along with other Roosevelt students, now faces at lunchtime: Where should I sit?

For the first time, the students have options beyond simply rectangular tables with stools attached.
In the new dining hall, students sit at round tables and chairs, long movable tables and a lounge area with plastic-covered couches and foot rests. The space at Roosevelt reopened Oct. 21 after undergoing a monthslong renovation as part of a pilot project tied to the San Francisco Unified School District's overall food-service transformation.

The space, about 25 percent bigger and boasting modern decor, looks more like San Francisco's hottest new restaurant than a school cafeteria.

"It's much more state-of-the-art, it's all new and we have the new cushions," Luu said of the lounge area. "Regardless of wherever I sit, I still like it because it's more decorative and much more colorful."


Thursday, November 6, 2014

By Meredith May | SF Chronicle Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle Junior architect Justin Marks helps intern
Nicole Chin learn how to save large blue prints in the computer.
By day, they are typical high school students. But when 1:30 p.m. rolls around, they are working alongside real architects and designers, helping draw sketches, price out materials and make models of San Francisco’s ever-changing skyline.

Build San Francisco Institute is a unique collaboration between working professionals and the public schools to create a fully accredited “small learning community,” for juniors and seniors who love to build things.

The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco rallies volunteers from 13 firms that specialize in design, engineering, construction and architecture, and matches them with a student. The San Francisco Unified School District provides a teacher for afternoon classes in environmental science and architectural design.

Each semester, 20 students enroll in the half-day high school program. Twice a week, they work alongside their mentors in a firm, getting a firsthand look at their chosen career. The other three afternoons a week, they gather in a design studio in The San Francisco Chronicle building South of Market for lessons on sustainability and the latest industry software, such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Revit Architecture.

Students dive into projects such as creating a livable community on Mars, complete with robots that break up surface ice to melt and filter into drinking water; domes for houses; and shipping containers with agricultural crops inside. Students used Autodesk 3-D animation software to present their futuristic city and collaborated with students in England and Australia.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SF middle school transforms cafeteria experience for students

By: Lyanne Melendez | October 24, 2014 | ABC Ch. 7

Original article

One San Francisco school is changing the cafeteria experience and how kids think about food.

The cafeteria at Roosevelt Middle School in San Francisco was just another place to eat, but now it offers students endless possibilities.

"It's just more fun, basically I guess you can say it's a more fun cafeteria," student Poppy Gallegos said.

There are different kinds of tables for all kinds of purposes like reading, socializing and just hanging out.

"There are so many different tables, it's hard to choose. My favorite is over the in the couches," said one student.

That area is called the chill out station, where kids can eat while trading Pokemon cards or ideas.


Friday, October 24, 2014

The next big thing in San Francisco - great public schools

Sylvia Yee | October 24, 2014 | SF Chronicle

Original article

From the Gold Rush days, San Francisco has been a city of entrepreneurs and innovation. It is home to some of the world’s finest cultural institutions and most savvy and creative businesses. At the same time, income inequality is growing faster in our city than in any other city in the country — more than 60 percent of our public school students come from low-income families, and this percentage is increasing. Our school district is one of the highest-achieving urban districts in the state, but it also has some of the widest student achievement gaps when race and family income are considered. We need to pull together and make our public schools the next big thing in San Francisco.

That’s why I was excited to see the launch of the One City campaign by the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation ( and Mayor Ed Lee, encouraging tech employees to volunteer in our public schools. We must make sure that our schools give all our children a top-flight education so they can become the doers, thinkers and leaders that our city will need in the future. No one knows this better than the leaders at the San Francisco Unified School District. They have been hard at work to transform teaching and learning in our schools, and they need support from all of us to bring this work home.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

SFUSD is ready to be a digital district but it needs money

By: Laura Dudnick | SF Examiner 

Mike Koozmin/the S.F. Examiner
STEAM program teacher Jacob Aringo, left, speaks with
Hoover Middle School Principal Carline Sinkler as sixth-
and seventh-graders participate in the STEAM program
where on this day they were learning to create circuits.

Last school year, Grey Todd, a math and sciences teacher at Presidio Middle School, finally had enough computers in his classroom for each student. However, after spending nearly a decade gradually adding the machines, they were outdated.

"I started out eight years ago with a few computers in my classroom that I bought on my own," said Todd, who teaches sixth- and seventh-graders in the San Francisco Unified School District. "Last year, I had enough for a computer for each kid, but they were very old [and] running Windows XP, [which is] no longer supported by Microsoft."

Todd is not the only public-school teacher in San Francisco to see firsthand the lack of state and federal money for technology advances in the classroom. While recently allocated state funding provides every public school in The City with at least one cart of devices for taking the California's new online standardized tests -- a total of 4,646 devices districtwide -- fewer than 3 percent of public-school students in The City are issued personal technology devices to use during instruction.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fascinating features of San Francisco’s old public schools

By Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

San Francisco’s newest public school, Willie Brown Jr. Middle School, will have plenty of modern features. But back in the 19th and 20th centuries, the city built very different schools — structures with Italian tile, solariums, painted ceilings, chandeliers and even gargoyles. These are old-school schools with fascinating features. Five gargoyles sit atop the old Hilltop High School in the Mission, built in 1937. “Every school should have gargoyles,” said David Goldin, San Francisco Unified’s chief facilities officer. Here’s a sampling, clockwise from top left: Tiles surround the arched doors at Hilltop High ; a gargoyle looks out from the Hilltop roof; original blueprints for all the schools in the district are kept in an office in Nourse Auditorium, built in 1927 for the High School of Commerce; a water fountain in the I.M. Scott Building in the Dogpatch neighborhood. See more images online at

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

San Francisco Schools grapple with Common Core, new technology

By: Hana Baba | October 14, 2014 | KALW

Listen to the audio clip here

Note: The San Francisco Unified School District owns KALW's broadcast license. 
San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza has headed the City’s schools for the past two years. He came to San Francisco from Las Vegas where he was a superintendent. Before that he was a high school principal. As a child, Carranza started school speaking only Spanish, and says his success story strengthened his belief in equitable opportunities in education. As Superintendent in San Francisco, he is grappling with issues like teacher pay, the new common core standards, and technology.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Computer science not just a game for S.F. schools

Jill Tucker | October 9, 2014 | SF Chronicle 

Photo: Paul Chinn / The ChronicleAngie Hoffman helps students create video games in a class at
Balboa High School. Zynga pays her salary and also bought half the computers.

The second-period students in Room 124 at Balboa High School are playing Pong as their teacher, wearing a homemade Pac-Man fabric skirt and red-glitter Converse sneakers, offers advice.

A few students have iPods plugged into their ears as they try to bounce the ball between two digital paddles.

They’re not goofing off. They’re in a college-prep computer science class, part of the school’s Game Design Academy and one that counts toward admission requirements for the UC and Cal State systems.

The course puts San Francisco at the forefront of a national trend to incorporate computer science into public schools — and not just as an after-school program or elective. It’s a shift in thinking: Computers aren’t just learning tools, they’re a bona fide course of study — and one with hot job prospects.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Public Schools Get $2.8M Grant to Help Students Exposed to Trauma

San Francisco public schools have received a $2.8 million federal grant to help students suffering from trauma because they have been exposed to violence.

The U.S. Department of Education will provide the San Francisco Unified School District with $570,000 a year for five years as part of its Project Prevent grant. SFUSD will use the funds to support a school-based violence intervention and prevention program at schools in the Bayview.

“We are committed to ensuring all our students feel safe, healthy and ready to learn,” said Superintendent Richard A. Carranza in a statement.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Students admitted to college, offered scholarships at first-of-its-kind college recruitment fair in SF

Laura Dudnick | SF Examiner

Mission High School senior Demerius Durham smiled modestly yet excitedly as he clutched a cellphone to his ear at a first-of-its-kind college recruitment fair in San Francisco on Monday.

"Dad, guess what?" the 17-year-old student said into the phone. "I got $30,000 in scholarships from one college."

Durham's acceptance into South Carolina's Benedict College -- which he achieved by presenting his transcripts and filling out an application -- was among dozens of on-the-spot admissions offered Monday at 32 schools in the U.S. as part of The City's first Historically Black College Recruitment Fair sponsored by the United College Action Network.

The recruitment fair -- established in 1999 by the nonprofit U-CAN to assist students in attending historically black colleges and universities -- will reach about 1,000 students at each of its 12 stops in California and Nevada on its 14-day tour this month, said Alan Rowe, who founded U-CAN with his wife, Donna, in 1988.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Salesforce CEO donates millions to SF schools

It's Christmas in September for San Francisco public school students. CEO Marc Benioff announced the company is giving $5 million to improve technology and buy more iPads. This is Benioff's second major donation to the school district.
A $5 million donation by Marc Benioff and Salesforce will help purchase:

  • more iPads and Chromebooks

  • better Wi-Fi at schools

  • train teachers and hire more technology instructors

  • This is for all middle schools including the K-8 ones.

    "There is no greater joy in life than giving," said Benioff.


    California, and SFUSD, lead way on multiculturalism at schools

    The state of public education in California is often cited as a bellwether for the rest of the country — although not always as a harbinger of good things to come. During the past decade, when academics and advocates referred to California’s education system, it was as a muddled model — low scores on national tests; underfunded schools; lawsuits stemming from unequal access to qualified teachers.

    Those problems persist, but now, California is emerging as a national leader in promoting multiculturalism in schools. At the start of this school year, the rest of the country arrived at a place that California reached in the 1988-89 school year, with public schools enrolling a majority of minority students.

    Although it varies from state to state, of the 50 million students enrolled in public schools nationwide this year, more than 25 million, or just over half, are Latino, African American, Asian and Native American, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. California is an outlier with three-quarters minority students.

    Read the rest at 

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

    This Year, We'll See Big Differences in the Roles of Cops in U.S. Schools

    Chris Opfer | August 29, 2014 | The Atlantic | CityLab

    As classes resume, school districts around the country try different approaches toward police on campus.

    As students start heading back to school, they'll find freshly decorated halls, new lockers to decorate, and teachers asking about their summer reading assignments. In some areas, they’ll also be greeted by metal detectors and armed police officers, including at a least a few toting semiautomatic assault rifles.

    A new school year means new questions about the role of police in classrooms and the effect of officers on everything from campus security to students’ prospects for spending for a life behind bars. School districts across the country spent their summer breaks grappling with the issue. While they’ve come up with varied approaches, many of the plans aim to achieve two overarching goals: decreasing arrests and enhancing relationships between cops and kids.

    School districts across the country have come up with varied approaches that aim for two overarching goals: decreasing arrests and enhancing relationships between cops and kids.

    Developing, teaching, and implementing Common Core State Standards Math curriculum

    You've probably been hearing about the rollout of Common Core State Standards, especially since we've revamped our math curriculum for all our schools. Our math department has been hard at work over the summer developing teacher training, and teachers have come out of it excited to use the new curriculum in classrooms.

    Not sure how to help your children with their homework? These questions and prompts are a good way to start:
    1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
      • What are you solving for in the problem?
      • Can you think of a problem that you have solved before that is like this one?
    2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
      • Can you write or recall an expression or equation to match the problem situation?
      • What do the numbers or variables in the equation refer to?
    3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
      • How do you know that your answer is correct?
      • If I told you I think the answer should be (offer a wrong answer), how would you explain to me why I’m wrong?
    4. Model with mathematics.
      • Do you know a formula or relationship that fits this problem situation?
      • What does the number(s) in your solution refer to?
    5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
      • What tools could you use to solve this problem? How can each one help you?
      • Why is this tool (the one selected) better to use than (another tool mentioned)?
    6. Attend to precision.
      • What do the symbols that you used mean?
      • Explain to me (a term from the lesson).
    7. Look for and make use of structure.
      • What do you notice about the answers to the exercises you’ve just completed?
      • What do different parts of the expression or equation you are using tell you about possible correct answers?
    8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
      • What shortcut can you think of that will always work for these kinds of problems?
      • What pattern(s) do you see? Can you make a rule or generalization?

    For even more questions to ask, download this parents' guide for developing math skills and visit the SFUSD Math Department website for further resources.

    Take a look at how some of these practices have been implemented already in our classrooms:

    Friday, August 22, 2014

    "We’re Not Interested in Pet Projects. We Know What We Need to Do to Educate Kids

    Jon Steinberg | San Francisco Magazine, Photo: Ramin Rahimian
    Photo: Ramin Rahimian

    San Francisco's schools chief discusses tech money, suspensions, and winning parents' hearts and minds.

    This is Think Tank an occasional series of conversations with Bay Area power players and newsmakers, conducted by San Francisco editors. Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

    Name: Richard Carranza
    Job: Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District
    Age: 47
    Residence: Ingleside Terrace

    San Francisco: San Francisco’s public schools are getting stronger, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of people—one in four families, by some projections—from going private. Why?
    Richard Carranza: People go by what they hear on the street. Somebody didn’t get their first choice in the assignment system, so all of a sudden the schools are bad. Or someone had a particularly bad experience with one class or one teacher or one principal or one superintendent, and then all of a sudden doesn’t want to be part of the whole system. That’s unfortunate. My job is to make sure that that unpleasant experience happens less.

    Jon Steinberg

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    SFUSD kicks off school year with emphasis on technology, communication

    Jessica Christian/special to the s.f. Examiner
    More than 55,000 students began school Monday,
    including a girl who received a helping hand
    from mom at Bret Harte Elementary School
    Cold and foggy weather didn't dampen 5-year-old Laniya Durgin's spirit as she skipped to her first day of kindergarten at Bret Harte Elementary School on Monday morning.

    "I like doing the work," said Laniya, referring to her past year in transitional kindergarten. She proudly showed off her new backpack decorated with green and purple peace symbols. "It's got all sorts of stuff in it -- pencils, a notebook, a paper folder."

    Laniya was one of more than 55,000 pre-kindergarten through high school students welcomed back to the San Francisco Unified School District's 131 schools Monday as city and district leaders highlighted numerous goals for the school year, including greater emphasis on technology in classrooms and a more defined community-schools approach.

    Superintendent Richard Carranza told the approximately 200 students at Bret Harte Elementary, the first of five schools he visited Monday, in both Spanish and English to "have fun" this school year.
    Principal Jeremy Hilinski said about half the students are Spanish speakers, and the school offers one of the district's nine Spanish-immersion programs to help ensure students are biliterate by the end of fifth grade.

    Read more at:

    S.F. school for immigrants offers soft landing to new kids in town

    Above: Parents help kindergartners get ready for class on the
    first day of school at the Mission Education Center.
    Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle
    The flow of children from Central America started hitting San Francisco schools in January, said Principal Debbie Molof. And over the summer they kept coming.

    As the school year started on Monday, they filled Molof's classrooms at the Mission Education Center, a K-5 "newcomer" school for Spanish-speaking children who have recently arrived in the country.

    The students came mostly from Honduras, but also El Salvador and Guatemala, with a handful from Mexico. Most of them arrived over the summer.

    Veteran teacher Lilly Chow smiled as the nervous fourth- and fifth-graders filed quietly into her classroom and filled every seat.

    Typically, Chow starts the school year with 12 to 15 students, with more arriving throughout the year.
    "This year is different," she said. "For the first time in 27 years, I will start with more than 30."

    The school offers a one- to two-year program to help the students learn English and catch up on academics they might have missed in their home countries. Then they transfer to other schools. The district also has a newcomer school for Chinese-speaking students.

    These kids are among the 60,000 children who have entered the country in the past year from Latin America, often unaccompanied. Most are being placed in California, Texas, Florida and New York.

    Read more at:

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    SF International High Sees Increase in Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

    Jennifer Chavac, 16, with Supervisor David Campos
    and School Superintendent Richard Carranza at the first day
    of school at SFIHS.
    On her first day of classes at San Francisco International High School, Jennifer Chavac, an 11th grader, was busy. This is her third year at this school and she’s proven to be a dedicated student. Today, she was in charge of showing City and School District officials what her Science class is like.

    Her most important task, however, was serving as a role model for the young immigrant students appearing for their first day of classes—a number that has jumped with the recent increase in unaccompanied minors coming into the United States. The Los Angeles Unified School System expected more than 1,000 new immigrant students, according to the LA Times and the same story estimated that 60,000 unaccompanied minors will be absorbed in school systems across the country.

    The entry on the first day of school begins in the most mundane of ways.

    “Today is about finding your way around because some teachers don’t have homerooms yet,” Chavac said.


    Monday, August 11, 2014

    SF schools preparing for increase in unaccompanied immigrant students

    Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo
    West Portal Elementary School teacher Jennie Lee teaches
    K-1st grade students Chinese
    The San Francisco Unified School District, a nationwide leader in newcomer student programs, wants the recent surge of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in the U.S. to know that they are welcome in The City’s public schools – and have been for some time.

    While the district already accommodates immigrant students through its pathway programs, school officials are preparing for the arrival of more unaccompanied children than in previous years by coordinating resources with city agencies and likely hiring several new teachers.

    “San Francisco is a sanctuary city, and [SFUSD] is a sanctuary school district,” said Matt Haney, a Board of Education member who has authored a resolution specifically urging the district to meet the needs of recent unaccompanied immigrant children fleeing from Central America.


    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    SF schools rolling out new Common Core math curriculum this year

    All San Francisco Unified School District math teachers
    will begin implementing the Common Core State Standards
    curriculum for the first time this fall.
    Math is about much more than just a right and wrong answer. And anyone can do it.

    That’s what the more than 55,000 PreK-12 students at San Francisco’s 121 public schools will learn beginning this school year, when district officials say math classes are taught in a more hands-on, collaborative way than ever before.

    It will mark the first time all 1,800 math teachers in The City will implement the Common Core State Standards curriculum, the first significant change to the San Francisco Unified School District’s math curriculum since 1997, said Lizzy Hull Barnes, the district’s mathematics program administrator.

    “For a very long time we have been reinforcing that math is getting the right answer quickly,” Barnes said. “Kids associate being good with math with speed [and] computation, and mathematical reasoning is much broader and deeper than that.”


    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    High schoolers take hands-on biology course in SF

    SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For those of you who have taken summer school, you know it can be slow and maybe not very appealing. But high schools in San Francisco have come up with a way to try to overcome boredom. For example in biology, students found some water, mud, and a little fresh air to make things a little more interesting.

    Welcome to summer school in the park.

    Students from different high schools in San Francisco are making up a biology class needed in order to eventually graduate. Most are sophomores and juniors.

    They're here because, well, let's just say they didn't do so well in biology. So instead of relearning the material in the classroom, they get to spend five weeks learning from Mother Nature.


    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    SF schools cook up a new approach to the cafeteria experience

    A recipe for a whole new cafeteria experience is being served up in San Francisco public schools, consisting of a pinch of progress, a dash of technology and a sprinkle of student input.

    Following a five-month collaboration last year with Bay Area-based design and consulting firm IDEO to rethink the San Francisco Unified School District's food system, officials this fall will launch pilot initiatives to revamp spaces and incorporate technology to transform the overall dining experience for students and faculty.

    "We really are changing what it means to eat lunch within the schools," Angela McKee, project manager for SFUSD's future dining experience, said at a recent panel discussion of the topic.

    The panel, held May 28 at the urban policy think tank SPUR, revealed the district's vision for a food experience drawing on the input of more than 1,300 students, parents, nutrition staff, principals, teachers and administrators.

    "This is the first project where we've taken a truly student-centered approach" to the district's food system, said Zetta Reicker, interim director of Student Nutrition Services for the SFUSD.


    Monday, June 23, 2014

    An easier-to-understand school budget — at only 600 pages

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that school district budgets are crazy complicated.
    In San Francisco, district officials this year are trying to make all of that more understandable, creating a two-volume budget document that runs 600 pages.

    “The district budget should not be a bulky, byzantine, document, only accessible to a select few,” said board member Matt Haney. “It should be a public-facing document, with families, students, and teachers able to read it, navigate it, and understand what it means for their school.”

    OK. Sure, 600 pages doesn’t sound simple. But the digital heft is largely a product of how education funding works in California.

    For starters, there are several pots of money, with some designated for very specific things like facilities or food. Those are called restricted funds. Others that are more loosey-goosey are called unrestricted funds.

    From there, it gets almost undecipherable, with money flowing into  hundreds of school-based and departmental accounts.

    The budget documents explaining all this typically include page after page of ledgers with squint-worthy type.

    School boards across the state are adopting those behemoth budgets this week to meet a state-mandated June 30 deadline. Rarely are there regular Joe’s and Jane’s at the meetings weighing on line item 341 — Custodial Support within General Fund expenditures for Operational Support.

    But this year, the San Francisco document is easier to understand. No, not necessarily easy, but easier.
    “The budget is always a challenge to thoroughly understand,” said school board President Sandra Fewer. “However, our budget books have a lot of good, quality information that is very helpful to the understanding of the budget. We have come a long way.”

    Basically, there are less wonky explanations of where money comes from and where it goes. And more importantly, there are colored graphics and charts that help too.

    “While SFUSD’s budget book has for years provided visual charts and narrative to explain the mechanisms of the budget, our book is now designed to show the reader more easily what our priorities are, what our strategies for success are, and to show how these drive our budget decisions,” said district spokeswoman Heidi Anderson.

    It’s a step in the right direction, albeit not perfect, Haney said.

    “Getting there is a process, but every year we seem to be doing better, with a greater emphasis on transparency, readability and a clearer narrative explaining how we got here,” he said. “And of course more charts and pictures, because everyone loves pictures!”

    The San Francisco school board is expected to pass the 2014-2015 budget Tuesday night.
    The short version of it:

    The district is proposing to spend $477 million in unrestricted funds (the most flexible and important part of the budget), up $36 million over last year. All told, the entire proposed operating budget is $716 million.

    To read Volume I: go here.
    To read Volume II: go here.

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

    Balboa High School Teacher Receives Award for Impact on Students

    A teacher at San Francisco’s Balboa High School is one of five recipients of a student-nominated award that recognizes educators at state public high schools.

    English teacher Eric Wilcox received a Carlston Family Foundation Outstanding Teachers of America award for his impact on students.

    The awardees are chosen after former students enrolled in or graduated from a four-year college or university nominate their high school teachers highlighting the qualities that made an impact in the classroom and on their personal lives.

    For 15 years, Wilcox has taught classes including Advanced Placement Language and Composition, College Prep English and Speech and Debate at the school at 1000 Cayuga Ave. in the city’s Balboa Park neighborhood.


    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

    SF schools part of new study highlighting challenges facing California immigrant students

    Two years after she emigrated from Jerusalem to the U.S., San Francisco resident Buthienah Taha made what would prove to be a significant decision for her family when her first son was born in 1981: her children's first language would be English.

    Taha has five children, two of whom still attend schools in the San Francisco Unified School District.
    "If you go to college, you have to learn to speak English, so the first language has to be English," Taha said of studying in both Jerusalem and the U.S.

    While Taha's decision was important to her children's future, they were schooled by a district that happens to be a national leader in addressing the needs of immigrant students and students of immigrant parents.

    Taha's children -- who were also raised speaking Arabic -- are among the more than half of California youths ages 16 to 26 who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, a number revealed in a first-of-its-kind report for the state released today by the Migration Policy Institute.

    The study, "Critical Choices in Post-Recession California: Investing in the Educational and Career Success of Immigrant Youth," recommends decisions that could be made by policymakers and education leaders as California recovers from the economic crisis.


    Monday, June 2, 2014

    San Francisco Counselor on a Mission to Make College Dreams Come True

    Reporter: Ana Tintocalis | California Report

    Linda Jordan, the African-American community liaison at Mission High School, is determined to get more black youths into college. (Ana Tintocalis/KQED)


    Linda Jordan is easy to spot in the hallways at Mission High School in San Francisco. She’s tall with long black dreadlocks and tows along her little black dog, Mr. Socks, almost everywhere she goes.

    Together they greet students outside her office every day between classes.

    Jordan is a big presence on campus and a big presence in the lives of these young people because she is determined to help them graduate and move on to college.

    “I tell the students when they come in, ‘I’m never going to disrespect you. I’m always going to be real with you. You may not like it, but I have to tell you. Otherwise, I’m not being the best I can be for you,’ ” says Jordan.

    Jordan’s official title is African-American community liaison, but she’s more like a social worker and college counselor for the school’s black students.

    Mission High created her position five years ago after being classified as a low-performing school for many years.

    Assistant Principal Laura Parker says Jordan is playing a key role in helping turn the school around. Last year, Mission graduated the highest percentage of African-Americans in the San Francisco Unified School District.

    “Often students who have been underserved by the education system … they hold themselves back because they’re not used to accessing the same [opportunities] that other students are getting,” says Parker.

    Jordan opens those doors for kids by connecting them with mentors and inviting college recruiters on campus. But students say the most important thing Jordan does is simply listen.

    Jordan says she’s just trying to “pay it forward” because she had strong leaders in her life.

    “I’m standing on some really broad shoulders,” she says. “I’m replicating what someone else already did with me beforehand and has done with others. So I don’t take a lot of credit for that. I’ve been blessed to connect with the students that I do.”

    One of the students this year is 17-year-old Jennifer Disovah Wilson, who has completed her education despite a life full of setbacks.

    Wilson’s mother was addicted to drugs. Her father died when she was just 3. A relative raised her but was physically and verbally abusive, Wilson says.

    So in middle school, she ran away.

    “When I was getting abused … I was told to act like nothing is the problem,” says Wilson. “I hated that. Now, I feel like I shouldn’t have to talk about … because I’m trying to better myself.”

    Jordan reminds Wilson that she does not have a “magic wand” and she can’t “turn back the clock.” She constantly encourages her to “grab her future and move forward.”

    Jordan says students like Wilson drive her to do the work she does. The one-on-one conversations help to keep Wilson focused on her studies, which has been especially important her senior year.

    She has been accepted to Wiley College, a historically black college in Texas. She also recently reunited with her biological mother, who is now clean and sober.

    They’re living together for the first time, but one complication is that Wilson’s mother is HIV-positive.

    Wilson now has to make the tough decision of either going away for college or staying home to help her sick mother.

    “You can see the change in her face, in her body,” says Wilson. “It’s hard to cope because, if she was to pass, I would like to be here to have those days with her. It’s only been a year that I’ve been with her.”

    Jordan sympathizes, but has been gently guiding Wilson to seize this academic opportunity.

    “She has to put herself first in order for this to start working for her,” says Jordan. “If you don’t grab an opportunity when it’s present, it might not come back around.”

    Wilson still isn’t sure what she’s going to do but continues to put her best foot forward — collecting her transcripts, attending awards ceremonies and end-of-school-year functions.

    On Wednesday,  Jennifer Disovah Wilson graduated from Mission High School.

    Mark Zuckerberg Bets Big on the Bay Area

    BY Chris Ciaccia | The Street

    NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Facebook (FB_) CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no stranger to making big bets -- Instagram, Oculus Rift and WhatsApp, to name a few. Now he's making a big bet on the children of Silicon Valley.

    Early Friday, Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan (a former teacher and current pediatric resident at the University of California at San Francisco), announced they would be donating $120 million to help improve education for underserved communities in the Bay Area, via the Startup:Education fund.

    Zuckerberg made the announcement on his Facebook page, noting that although the Bay Area is rich in resources for the tech community, the education system in lacking in many areas, especially for underprivileged schools.

    "Students from low income and minority backgrounds are the hardest hit, which means fewer end up graduating or attending college," Zuckerberg said in the post. "Improving public education in our country and our community is something Priscilla and I really care about, and we want to change this."

    He noted that the funds will be used for new district and charter schools to encourage innovation, and to help build up the next area of leadership in education, as well as supporting student development.

    Richard A. Carranza, of the San Francisco Unified School District, noted how important it is for the award to keep the youth of San Francisco ahead of the curve.

    "Our youth are our most important resource, they will keep our city culturally vibrant and competitive," Carranza said in a statement. "But to transform our schools into truly 21st century learning systems we need a greater investment in financial, social and political capital. We are thrilled that Mark and Priscilla have stepped up to support our vision by focusing on the needs of students in San Francisco's most underserved communities."

    Zuckerberg noted that there are so many communities in the Bay Area that are underfunded and underserved, noting that the Ravenswood school district had less than 40% of students proficient on state tests in English language arts and less than 50% in math.

    Gloria M. Hernandez-Goff, superintendent of the Ravenswood City School District, was ecstatic with the award, explaining what it means to those in her district. "We are grateful for their support for everything we are doing to prepare our students for success in high school and college so that they, too, can launch careers in the increasingly competitive Silicon Valley work force."

    Zuckerberg and his wife noted that the first $5 million of the fund will be used for the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto/Belle Haven, Redwood City School District "and several other high need communities in San Francisco." Those grants will go to providing computers, connectivity, as well as teacher training and parent outreach.

    "Funds will also support leadership opportunities for students, more effective transitions for students moving from middle school to high school, and leadership training for principals."

    Given the nature of the size of the award, Zuckerberg and his wife also penned an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News (a partner of TheStreet) to discuss why the award was made, and what they hope to achieve by making the investment.

    This is not the first time Zuckberg has made an award to public schools, having done so almost four years ago, when he announced to Oprah Winfrey that he would be donating $100 million to do a similar action, supporting and improving district and charter schools in Newark, N.J.

    Real world: Deloitte, SFUSD partner to train 'Courageous Principals'

    By | San Francisco Business Times

    The real world of the classroom will meet the real world of the cubicle in a program tailored by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte and leading off with San Francisco Unified School District principals and administrators.

    The program, unveiled Thursday morning and funded in part by a private grant to the district, will send 60 SFUSD principals, assistant principals and administrators to Deloitte University near Dallas for three days of training June 6-8.

    Along with Foundation's $2.7 million gift last year to the San Francisco school district, the Deloitte program is one of a handful of projects coming out of years of spade work by SFUSD to get the San Francisco business community — especially tech companies— to work with the district.

    But SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza said programs like Deloitte's go beyond "bake sales or the donation of 50 computers" to forge a strategic partnership.

    "Deloitte came in and said, 'This is what we do. How can that work with what the district needs?'" Carranza said.

    Deloitte has invested about $1 million developing the "Courageous Principals" program and paying for trainers, the facility and program materials, said Teresa Briggs, the firm's West region and San Francisco managing partner.

    "People have asked, 'Why principals?'" Briggs said. "With principals you get a multiplier effect" that creates "ripples of leadership" that extend to teachers and staff, students and the community at large, she said.

    The contingent contingent from 57,000-student SFUSD is the first to go through the program, which works with the New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit organization based in Santa Cruz. Houston, Chicago and New York will send principals later in June and July.

    Deloitte piloted the program last summer with 50 principals from four states.

    As the program connects school leaders with top officials from the business, public sector and not-for-profit arenas, Deloitte’s curriculum focuses on understanding personality types, how to communicate effectively and how to have difficult conversations. It is the same curriculum used internally by Deloitte.

    "I like the name, 'Courageous Principals,'" Carranza said, "because principals have to have courageous conversations all day long."

    The program ultimately could help "the Mesopotamia of innovation" called San Francisco develop a future wave of entrepreneurs, Carranza said.

    For Edward Robeson Taylor Elementary Principal Marlene Callejas, the program is an opportunity to meet people who think differently about “problems of practice and management style.”

    “I want to find out from managers what they’re looking for,” said Callejas, adding that schools already have adopted business-like practices where teachers are more like facilitators for conversations in the classroom.
    “I want to see if I’m on the right path,” she said.

    Callejas is in her third year leading E.R. Taylor, in the city’s Portola neighborhood. The school has 720 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, 36 teachers and 50 other staff members. Its morning announcements in the school’s courtyard are done in English, Spanish and Cantonese.

    The school bought Apple iPads this year to connect students to technology and started a breakfast program because staff found that several students were arriving for the 9 a.m. start of the school day without having eaten.

    “I have friends in corporations who can’t believe what we do,” said Callejas, who is in her 32 nd year with SFUSD. “They have their day planners and they check the boxes, but if I get to do three things that I planned at the beginning of the day, that’s something.”