Learning at Home

Learn More and Weigh In: Creating Quality SFUSD Middle Schools

It’s a good time for Pre-school and Elementary school families to get educated and share feedback on the district’s proposals for middle schools. I’m reposting a section of Rachel Norton’s blog about a recent Board of Education committee meeting yesterday, February 2. (See below.)

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Recap: Creating Quality SFUSD middle schools and transportation cuts

Lots of news out of tonight’s Committee of the Whole, specifically:

* Staff outlined several options for middle school assignment, including an updated map of how MS feeder patterns could look and a recommendation to phase in the feeder patterns gradually. (See these handy-dandy lists–sorted by MS and by ES — which are way easier to read than the maps. I must caution again that these are draft proposals — not set in stone. There is a whole community feedback project happening in February and March, so everyone will have a chance to weigh in. I see some problems myself.)

Creating Quality SFUSD Middle Schools: Continued

So, first up: building high quality middle schools in every neighborhood. This is the frame being used by the project team, and while it sounds kind of obvious, it’s still the overarching goal. It’s also honest, since it’s the district’s acknowledgement that not every middle school is where it should be.  According to the presentation:

Creating quality middle schools requires us to build stronger programs and pathways in a number of areas: Academies/Magnets; GATE/Honors; Language Pathways; Special Education; Visual and Performing Arts.

In order to do this, the district has previously committed to several different projects: an ambitious redesign of special education, and  enhancing and building language pathways K-12 to support English Learners (our legal obligation under the Lau decision) and to provide opportunity for every child to become bilingual and bicultural. There is good work underway to expand academies and magnet programs, but in my personal view, GATE/Honors definitely needs more attention. The Superintendent is also proposing to extend the school day at middle schools to 7 periods in order to accommodate the increased language pathways, estimates this would cost almost $6 million; another option might be a 4 x 4 block schedule that would have students alternating courses on a MWF and TuTh schedule — according to the Superintendent’s statements tonight, the cost of such a block schedule would be similar to adding a 7th period at all middle schools, but provide additional course choices to students.

Creating Quality SFUSD Middle Schools: So how would MS enrollment work? The staff presented three options

  • Choice – forgoing a middle school feeder pattern at the current time and identifying other ways to accommodate expected growth in demand for middle school seats.
  • Implement K-8 feeder patterns for 2012-13, which would allow the district to quickly realize the benefits of virtual K-8 pathways but could create a sense among families that the patterns unfairly create “winners” and “losers,” undermining the expected benefits of the policy.
  • Phase in K-8 feeder patterns, by using the feeder patterns as a “tiebreaker” in MS enrollment. This would encourage voluntary parent participation in building virtual K-8s, but would mean that benefits would be realized more slowly.

Staff and the board’s clear preference was for the third option, which would make feeder patterns more voluntary. There was some discussion over the proposed order of tiebreakers, since tonight’s proposal prioritized feeder patterns over younger siblings — most Board member’s disagreed and thought younger siblings should still be the top preference, followed by feeder-pattern preference, then CTIP, then attendance area.
Next steps: staff will continue working on the project plan, incorporating feedback gathered by PPS and the PAC, which will be leading the community engagement effort over the next two months. A final proposal will come to the Board sometime in May.

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