SF public schools offer rigorous arts education to all students

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The following letter was sent by Superintendent Vincent Matthews on Jan. 31, 2020 to the editor of the SF Chronicle.

Dear Editor:

I am writing to express serious concerns with a statement included in the “Datebook Pick” article in the January 31, 2020 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. The first sentence of this article reads, “Now that our public school system has abdicated its responsibility to give all students a solid foundation in theater, music and visual art, too often a child’s access to arts training depends on the ZIP code they were born in.”

Simply put, this is factually inaccurate. At the San Francisco Unified School District, we provide a rigorous and meaningful arts education for each and every student in every zip code. SFUSD offers arts education in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grades in many different disciplines and approaches.

In the 12 years since SFUSD’s first Arts Education Master Plan and with the support of the voter-approved Public Education Enrichment Fund, arts teachers are in 100% of elementary schools, and each elementary student receives three full days per week of arts instruction by a certificated teacher. Students at the middle school and high school levels also have access to quality arts programs supportd by credentialed arts teachers.

In addition to core arts disciplines, schools all over the city have created specialized programs such as Mariachi, Spoken Word and Steel Pan and Taiko Drumming celebrating the diverse cultures that make up our community.

We are grateful to have relationships with the city’s arts institutions and community-based arts organizations helping to make San Francisco a campus for creative learning and experiential education.

There is more arts learning in our schools than many realize and we agree it’s still not enough. We are committed to even more because cultivating our students’ creativity is essential to a well-rounded 21st Century ready education. We continue to direct our resources toward increasing the arts we provide to our most underserved populations and we also are fundraising to create a center for working artists to partner with educators to support creative career exploration, school day arts integration and more.

During the school year, thousands of students and families participate in a variety of events including the SFUSD Arts Festival, Mariachi Program and Festival, Elementary Choral Collaboration, AIM Honors Concerts, Elementary Music Festival, District Dance Showcase, Bayview-Hunters Point Arts Showcase, Salvation Army Choral Event, Steel Pan Drum Program, Taiko Drum Program, Summer Arts Program, and the VAPA TK-12 Ceramics Program. I invite you to attend any one of the these events featuring our students so you can see for yourself the talent we are cultivating in San Francisco’s public schools.


Dr. Vincent Matthews

Superintendent of Schools, SFUSD