Tuesday, March 9, 2010

SFGate: Tough choices for 12 S.F. schools in bottom 5%

This from today's Chronicle:
Across California, 188 schools got the news Monday that they were the lowest of the low-performing schools - a designation that will require them to be closed, converted to a charter school or be subject to a complete overhaul of instruction and staff, starting with the principal.

Dozens of Bay Area schools, including 12 in San Francisco, landed on the state's 5 percent lowest-achieving schools list - a ranking required by the federal government.

The schools on the list serve predominantly low-income students and, therefore, receive or are eligible for Title I funds. The formula used to rank them was primarily based on standardized test scores.

Each school on the list will be eligible for up to $2 million in federal funding annually for the next three years to help the schools improve - but only if they initiate one of four major reform strategies starting in the 2010-11 school year. The grant money is separate from Title I funding.
Reform choice

The reform choices are:

-- A turnaround model: Replace the principal and retain no more than half the existing staff, giving the new principal flexibility to hire and to set the school calendar and the budget.

-- A restart model: Convert to a charter school.

-- School closure model: Shut down and send the students to a higher-achieving school.

-- A transformation model: Replace the principal, reform instruction, increase learning time and provide operational flexibility.

State law allows schools to hold off on choosing a reform strategy, but they must choose one by this fall or they will be ineligible for the Title I School Improvement Grant money - part of the Obama administration's stimulus funding.

California law requires that at some point each school on Monday's list will have to pick a plan, with or without the extra money.

"I would not have a school think they can just ignore this and not have to implement," said Theresa Garcia, executive director of the state Board of Education. "If you really want to have money to do it, you need to apply for the (federal) grant."

The state is eligible for up to $416 million of the $3.5 billion pot of money.

The funding could pay for staff, supplies, longer school days, training, textbooks or whatever else local officials think could help turn test scores around.

Parents, students and community members need to be a big part of that conversation, said Alberto Retana, director of community outreach for the federal Department of Education.

"The folks who have the most to gain and the most to lose are the critical part (of) this effort being successful," he said. "We need a strong and aggressive community to be behind these efforts."

Districts and schools opting to participate in the federal grant funding will have to have a plan within the next few months - giving them little time to prepare.
Read the full story
The following is a list of S.F. schools that were classified Monday as persistently low-achieving - a group that falls in the bottom 5 percent statewide.

San Francisco Unified - Willie L. Brown Jr. Elementary; Bryant Elementary; Cesar Chavez Elementary; Everett Middle School; Carver Elementary; Horace Mann Middle School; John Muir Elementary; Paul Revere Elementary; John O'Connell Alternative High; Mission High; Burton Academic High; Thurgood Marshall High

14 comments:

  1. Well, I guess this is the place to comment about Paul Revere. This outcome strikes me as stupid and cruel. 5 years ago they dumped everyone and brought in a great principal, who has made enormous progress with his lower grades and admitted to us, at a parent tour, that he really needed time to get the newly improved younger kids up into the 6th-8th grades, where scores are still quite low. He also described visionary fundraising efforts, noting that a PTA-driven enrichment plan isn't useful in a school with so many lower-income families -- so he partnered up with businesses and wrote grants. Lance Tagamori (sp?) is a guy who WORKS. Knows his stuff. Has made Paul Revere into the kind of place I would absolutely have put on my list if we were going to K in 2010. And as I said in all my posts, I began this whole public school touring process as a skeptic about SFUSD in general. What I learned is that first and foremost, a visionary principle with a lot of energy and intellect is what you want in your kid's school.

    Any PR parents out there? Will they go charter? Does anyone know if there is a plan at PR? I really can't see them firing the principal and the staff he worked so hard to hire the first time 'round, or simply closing it. To my eye, it was poised to become the go-to school for Bernal parents.

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  2. Totally agree with you, Marcia Brady. I would also give the new leadership at Horace Mann more time, and finally I would say that Mission High has phenomenal teachers. I can't speak for the rest. I suspect that a few on the list could use a full-court press, but not all.

    The whole approach of reconstituting the school has not worked in the past--why do they think it will now? Yes, if the leadership is lacking and the school is in chaos. No, if that issue is NOT the problem.

    I have nothing at all against them adding more resources, having a longer school day. Why must this be paired with overturning the principal and most of the teachers? You can't fire poverty, you can't fire the kids, so you fire the teachers. Great.

    Btw, here is a nice article on Mission High from today's Chronicle. I'm sure MHS needs support, and maybe some magnet programs to even out demographics? more resources for sure. But change up the teachers? Will new teachers really be able to turn around a school whose main challenge is the effects of poverty and combined with lots of kids who don't speak English?

    Anyway, here's the article.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/09/SPSN1CCQNJ.DTL

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  3. These truly horrible schools should be shut down.

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  4. Anon 6:02, have you ever been to Paul Revere? There is nothing horrible there. Nothing. I don't know about the others, but Revere's scores are hampered by it being K-8 and the new principal only having 5 grades' worth of "improved" kids, and by the fact that it's Spanish immersion with a lot of English language learners and the kids are tested in English.

    And no, I don't have a horse in this race. I don't live in Bernal; I will leave the city before I'll put my kid in a school that isn't acceptable to me; I was privately educated and so have nothing against private schools. The choices Revere faces just strike me as deeply unfair given what I've seen and heard about it. Is there anything we parents can do? Revere parents? Or Bernal Heights parents? Are you out there?

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  5. I'm a Bernal parent with a 3-year-old, and I am following this with interest since I had gotten the impression from locals that the school was really turning around. I would love love love to have a local school to be excited about, and Bernal is obviously a neighborhood where parents would be likely to be very involved. Since I'd been hearing good things about the school, I was shocked to see it on this list.

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  6. This is one of the systemic tragedies of public schools. The system is so enormous. How can we expect federal funding agencies to closely examine individual schools to see what they are accomplishing and the populations with which they are accomplishing it? The approach is, "Test scores aren't at least X, so we're going to pull the rug out." There's no way federal agency staffers are going to go out and visit thousands of schools across the country so they just crunch numbers.

    Is there another way? Can Paul Revere afford to decline the federal funding and continue on its path of improvement? Is there an appeal process that would get a school like Paul Revere with its divided population off the list, since the younger kids are showing so much improvement? The statement that each school must pick a plan, with or without the money, sounds pretty draconian.

    Are charters more successful in Chicago than they have been here?--is that why Obama and Duncan are so convinced they are the solution?

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  7. I toured Paul Revere twice and was impressed by the parent community, the teachers and a principal whose incredible energy, leadership and enthusiasm for his school contributed greatly to it being at the top of my list. Granted, if I was a parent who was hung up on test scores, I would not even have been touring Revere -(or any other Spanish Immersion schools for that matter). It is a shame that this list may, in the end, only serve to dissuade parents who otherwise would have considered this emerging school, from actually touring and seeing the lie in the test scores for themselves.

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  8. I know that a group of parents saved Daniel Webster from closure, and it has come a long way. The organization is PREfund (Potrero Residents Education Fund, www.prefund.org).

    Perhaps that is a model Bernal or even SE quarter community members can emulate if they care about Revere? Webster was in far, far worse shape back when PREfund started than Revere is now.

    And if you are in this neck of the woods, go see Revere. You will be pleasantly surprised.

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  9. Yes, we Paul Revere parents are out here. Despite this scary news, we are trying to continue to focus on the work of strengthening our community and improving our school through parent involvement. We have faith in our administration. We don't believe that drastic and disruptive change is a solution to meeting the needs of any of our students. We appreciate the supportive comments here and hope those of you who know the school will keep spreading the word about the good things happening there. And thanks for the PREfund tip.

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  10. Here is the really insulting thing -- didn't Arne Duncan VISIT Revere recently? And do a lot of glad-handing and photo ops?

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  11. I'm gutted for my friends whose children are thriving at Paul Revere. Lance has been a fantastic and tireless principal. I'll support them with time and money if they decide to keep him and go the charter route.

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  12. If Paul Revere were such a terrible school that it would require kicking out half the staff, including its one-of-a-kind principal, Dr. Lance Tagomori, why is it that in this year's first round of assignments 204 families put PR on their list of 7 (for 60 spots), 57 of those even on #1? What did these families see during their tour that Arne Duncan, Obama's Secretary of Ed, didn't see last year when he paraded around on the schoolgrounds?
    He apparently must have missed some important points that those parents saw and heard, that made them believe that this was the absolutely best place for their children to prepare for high school, as we, the parents at Revere, do.

    If you want to convince yourself, if you get The Letter tomorrow with Revere on there: don't panic, please do come visit - yet again. We'll show you around: we'll tell you about the low class size, about the additional programs, about Lance and his team, we'll show you our library and computer resources - we'll have you meet our kids, and we'll let you draw any conclusion you'll want to draw.

    Are our test scores dismal? They might, they very well might. Quite frankly, I don't really know as I haven't checked for a very long time. I'm a parent of a fluently tri-lingual 1st grade Revere student. We didn't put Revere on our list. We ended up here 'by accident' - and never looked back.
    Since having come into our school community, I don't give a hoot anymore about test scores, because I have met many Revere teachers: they care about creating an environment that will make the students excited to come to school, to be exposed to new things, to open a new book just by themselves, to inquire, challenge, learn.
    Is it those teachers that are supposed to go, because their students' test scores don't match up with some schools that have put all their efforts into having their students train for test scores?
    I also know that that bi-lingualism, a second nature for many Revere students will, as studies show, make them more successful in language, in math, in science, in the long run - but will make English-only tests more challenging in the beginning.

    Finally, why you haven't heard more from us, Revere parents, since the news came out on Wednesday? Because we are slightly dumb-struck, because we were afraid we were going to use very inappropriate language when voicing our opinion, because we were busy gathering more resources for our school, students, and community, because Revere has never done a good job at marketing (again, just because everybody is too busy focusing on the kids).
    Because every one of us was busy working hard to make sure that 60 new Kindergartners will have the best possible educational experience in the Revere community - because their parents could see what the US Secretary of Education couldn't see: that test scores and a wonderful education are not necessarily related.

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  13. I live just 3 blks from PR and SO SO wanted to love it. I have visited more than 6 times in 2 yrs, talked up all the parents, teachers, etc. And even though we are quite unhappy with our current Span Imm school, I turned PR down when the option to transfer came. I truly cannot figure out if this is a school that is foundering but has uniquely optimistic (& perhaps naive parents) or a school that is misunderstood, misjudged (& has uniquely optimistic parents). What I do know is that when I sat in on 1st grd classes this year, I was troubled. Very little learning was going on; lots & lots of discipline issues. The teachers were dealing with the "problem" kids 100% of the time while the other kids chatted or stared into space. In one hour I saw more serious disruption of the class than I have seen in 2 yrs at my kids' school (which has serious problems as well). And the teachers, though bright & energetic, seemed totally overwhelmed and frankly, not skilled in classroom management. I could not imagine my kids lasting a week there.
    I also spend alot of time with older PR kids at the local playground after school, and they are often extremely badly behaved, rude, foul-mouthed and threatening to adults & kids. I know alot of other Bernal parents have seen this too, and I believe it is partly why it is not the "go-to" school for many of us even though it has so much else to offer. I feel for Lance and the other dedicated staff, b/c I think in time they would have turned it around. If they made it k-5 again, and had one program instead of two (all SPan Imm for example) & the SFUSD allowed Bernal folks to choose it as a neighborhood school it might have made it.

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  14. Well, 11.20, the only thing I can say is that it's my child at Paul Revere, not yours - so I like to think that my eye is ever more watchful for the situations that you describe. Not sure where you were - but I can only say: come meet my daughter, sit in her class for a while, meet her teacher.

    For the record: it's amusing to be called naive when it comes to that most precious of one's life: a child, and its environment.

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