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Report of Findings and Recommendations from Community Conversations about Building Quality Middle Schools


Report of Findings and Recommendations from Community Conversations about Building Quality Middle Schools & Proposed K-8 Pathways May 9, 2011 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Report of Findings and Recommendations from Community Conversations about Building Quality Middle Schools

Report of Findings and Recommendationsfrom
Community Conversations about Building Quality
Middle Schools Proposed K-8 Pathways May 9,
  • Cindy Choy Carla Cuevas
  • Rhoyal Baibé Foston Ruth Grabowski
  • Michelle Jacques-Menegaz Carol Lei
  • Marilyn Luong (inter.) Daphne Magnawa
  • Ellie Rossiter Chablis Scott

  • PPS PAC Members and Staff
  • Our Volunteers!
  • SFUSD Middle School Planning Team
  • Middle School Principals and their Staff
  • SFUSD Translation Interpretation Unit
  • Parent Liaisons
  • All the people who participated in the forums.

  • What we did and why
  • Who we heard from
  • Findings from community meetings
  • Recommendations for the Board and district staff
  • Conclusion

What We Did and Why
  • In March 2010 the Board of Education adopted a
    student assignment policy with feeder patterns
    for middle schools without community input on
    this idea.
  • Last fall the community reacted negatively to the
    feeder patterns, and the district delayed
    implementation in order to explore options for
    K-8 Pathways.
  • The PAC and PPS worked with district staff to
    organize and conduct community forums to talk
    about middle school quality, proposed language
    pathways, and feeder patterns.

Goals of the Forums
  • Let parents, educators and community members know
    about district proposals for K-8 pathways and
    improving middle schools.
  • Hear the communitys questions, concerns and
    ideas about these proposals.
  • Report community feedback about these issues to
    the Board of Education and district staff, to
    inform your decisions and strengthen new systems
    for all middle schools.

Community ForumsMarch 1 April 21, 2011
  • We heard from over 850 people.
  • We went to 12 middle schools, 5 elementary
    schools, and held two targeted focus groups.
  • Attendance ranged from 12-200 people (average
    50). Some of the elementary school conversations
    had more participants than the middle school
  • We know large, centralized events dont tend to
    draw a representative group of people - so we
    held meetings in targeted communities to make
    sure we heard from parents with diverse

Who We Heard From
  • Parents who participated in these elementary
    school meetings and focus groups did more closely
    reflect represent the districts student
  • In these targeted conversations we found
  • The same range of ideas concerns we heard at
    the larger forums
  • The same concerns we heard reported last year
  • We have full confidence that our report reflects
    the diverse perspectives of parents across the

Findings What Weve Heard Before
  • The main messages we heard during the community
    forums are similar to what weve heard families
    say repeatedly over the past several years - and
    what weve repeatedly reported to the Board of
    Education and district staff
  • More than anything else parents want quality
    schools - and they dont perceive all schools as
    quality schools.
  • Beyond test scores, schools are different from
    each other. Parents want to be able to choose a
    school that will meet their childrens needs.

What weve heard before
  • Most parents questioned whether student
    assignment - specifically, the proposed feeder
    patterns - has any direct relationship to
    building quality middle schools.
  • Most parents would like their children to attend
    a school thats easy to get to, but they also
    care about special programs, school culture and
    size. Many parents would be willing to send
    their child to a school farther away if it would
    better meet their familys needs.

What weve heard before
  • Many parents challenged the feeder patterns as
    unfair and inequitable. They dont want to feel
    forced into something that wont work for their
  • Even parents who supported feeder patterns, as a
    way to address the challenges of increasing
    student enrollment and to support better
    planning, had questions about how feeder patterns
    would meet the individual needs of different

New Issues That Emerged
  • There is widespread support for expanding
    language programs. At the same time, parents want
    the district to meet the language needs of all
    students, including
  • Newcomer students who speak languages in addition
    to Cantonese, Spanish or Mandarin
  • Students who need bilingual support to develop
    academic English, as well as recognition of their
    bicultural identity
  • Students coming out of K-5 language immersion and
    bilingual programs, and
  • General Ed. and Special Education students, who
    should have access before high school to learn
    another language.

New Issues That Emerged
  • People raised fundamental questions about how to
    meet students different academic needs
  • How do we best meet students different learning
    styles, needs and abilities?
  • How can the district support teachers to provide
    differentiated instruction?
  • Why is access to high-quality elective courses so
    uneven from school to school, and how can English
    Learner and Special Education students have
    access to electives?
  • Whats in place now, what can be put in place,
    whats the impact of budget cuts, and how does
    all this fit with efforts to align standards
    curriculum across the district?

  • Quality Middle Schools
  • Language Pathways
  • Feeder Patterns / Student Assignment
  • How parents felt about the process

Quality Middle Schools
  • People have different priorities, but theres a
    common desire for schools where the principal,
    teachers, and staff have a clear vision for how
    to meet the different needs of diverse student
  • While the district described a list of factors
    related to quality schools, no real information
    was presented about what the challenges are,
    whats working, or specific plans for improving
    schools based on this information.
  • Where is the research on what is effective?
    Why do people choose the top-requested schools?
    What are they doing? Can we replicate that?
    Let that drive our decisions moving forward.

Quality Middle Schools
  • The district is changing how Special Education
    services will be provided, but didnt talk about
    that - or how feeder patterns could meet the
    specific needs of students in Special Education.
  • Special Education is not being addressed. We
    need teachers, resources. There is not a lot of
    talk here about Special Education.
  • Whats the districts position or theory about
    how to meet the needs of both struggling and
    high-achieving students, whether through honors
    courses or differentiation?
  • Im not a big advocate for tracking - but I want
    the district to have a plan. If they dont have
    a GATE program, how are they going to engage
    those kids?

Quality Middle Schools
  • Parents want more electives and hands-on learning
    that kids are excited about - and which is not
    accessible at all schools.
  • Sometimes that elective is going to be the
    joyful piece - its what keeps them engaged.
  • Some parents were skeptical that the district
    could find the resources to make the 7th period
    possible, while others felt it is such a clear
    priority that funds should be prioritized to make
    it work.

Expanding Language Pathways
  • Across differences in schools, neighborhoods,
    ethnicity, and primary language, people support
    the idea of expanding language programs for
    middle school students.
  • Lets overcome the obstacles and make it happen.
    Language acquisition is so important that it
    should be prioritized. Find the funds to make it
  • At the same time, many parents, educators and
    community members raised questions and concerns
    about the proposed language pathways discussed at
    the forums.

Expanding Language Pathways
  • Parents want all middle schoolers to have access
    to learning another language.
  • But that brings up the question - are all
    students going to have access to language? It
    seems like the resources are being put to a
    smaller group of students - I would want all kids
    to have access to language.
  • There was confusion about how biliteracy programs
    work, what the Lau Plan is, or how the pathways
    would serve English Learner students.

Expanding Language Pathways
  • Some school communities were concerned that
    expanding the language programs will mean
    dismantling their Visual and Performing Arts
    programs. In the forum at A.P. Giannini, parents
    were promised this would not happen.
  • I just want to have it written down unless you
    have the 7th period, the language program will
    dismantle the VAPA program weve built here at

Expanding Language Pathways
  • Even people who were enthusiastic about expanding
    language programs raised concerns about the
    challenges of finding qualified teachers, and the
    lack of funding and resources to implement the
    proposed programs.
  • How are they going to pay for that? The
    district doesnt have the resources to expand
    Immersion into middle school let alone language
    for all.

Expanding Language Pathways
  • People wondered how to improve services for
    English Learners in general, as well as those who
    dont speak the major languages in the district.
  • Parents also wondered whether students in Special
    Education and general education would have access
    to language programs.

Expanding Language Pathways
  • Despite the language pathways commitment and
    this seal of bilingualism, only the Lau Plan is
    a legal mandate, and as we try to do all of this
    warm fuzzy stuff, why dont we serve the Pacific
    Islander students? There arent any biliteracy
    programs for them. If were having budget
    issues, what do we do first fully implement
    Lau, or create trilingual paths? What takes

Feeder Patterns
  • Parents questioned whether student assignment in
    general - or feeder patterns, specifically - has
    any direct relationship to building quality
    middle schools.
  • This system is a strange bandage.
  • Many people were very critical of the feeder
    patterns. Some were completely against the
    concept, while others were more concerned about
    the specific feeders being proposed.
  • It looks really nice if youre feeding into the
    top six requested schools, and doesnt feel as
    good if youre in the bottom seven.

Feeder Patterns
  • Some felt the program planning and
    community-building opportunities would strengthen
    the middle schools ability to meet the needs of
    incoming students.
  • Feeders have a lot of positive implications for
    middle school PTAs because middle school is a
    short amount of time.  Its hard to build
    continuity of parent leadership when people are
    in and out.

Feeder Patterns
  • Many parents completely rejected the districts
    plan to take away their ability to choose a
    school. They want to be able to select more than
    one option that works for their family, and not
    be constrained or forced into a designated
  • This plan is the worst of all worlds. Im
    coming from elementary schools we dont live
    near, a middle school I havent chosen and might
    not live close to - let me choose where I want to

Feeder Patterns
  • People challenged the feeder patterns as unfair
    to students unless all schools have all the same
    range and quality of programs - which isnt
    always practical, and isnt what most parents or
    school administrators say they want.
  • The concept of feeders is great, but the devil
    is in the details. I feel like the district
    treats all the schools the same and doesnt
    appreciate the differences among the schools in
    terms of dollars and resources.

Feeder Patterns
  • Even parents who supported feeder patterns had
    questions about how they could meet the
    individual needs of different students.
  • I have two children in middle school with really
    different needs. How are you going to serve
    their different needs if you take away my choice
    about where they can go?

The Mission, Bayview and Excelsior
  • Participants in these conversations expressed the
    same range of interests, questions and concerns
    that came up in the other forums.
  • In addition, people are concerned that despite
    having the highest concentration of children of
    the city, the southeast has the fewest middle
  • With the closure of Willie Brown, the Bayview
    will have no middle school at all. As a result,
    students will be sent to middle schools across
    the city.
  • Im upset that there will not be a middle school
    in my neighborhood (Bayview).

The Mission, Bayview and Excelsior
  • Many people wondered whether transportation would
    be provided for students being sent to schools
    far away. Everyone understands the district is
    scaling back school bus service - and wondered
    how their children would get to school on time.
  • Here in the Bayview were almost in the bay, but
    if our kids go to Giannini, theyll be almost in
    the ocean!

The Mission, Bayview and Excelsior
  • Parents and educators in these neighborhoods felt
    their students dont received the same level of
    support, and dont have access to the same
    quality of programs, as families on the west side
    of the city.
  • We want a quality middle school that is exactly
    the same as all the other neighborhoods but here
    in our community. Because if we cant have that
    here and we have to go to another neighborhood,
    how do you expect people to react when they come
    to this part of the town?

Mission, Bayview and Excelsior
  • Theyre also concerned about a lack of cultural
    competency in some schools their children will
    attend - and whether their children will be made
    to feel welcome in those schools.
  • We are concerned about how our kids will be
  • treated on that side of town.
  • For many Latino parents in the Mission District,
    safety continues to be a major concern - not
    necessarily inside particular middle schools, but
    in the streets and neighborhood around those

How Parents Feel about the Process
  • People expressed a lot of doubt and questions
    about the districts intentions, capacity or
    resources to implement these proposals.
  • Is this a done deal? Is the district even
    listening to what we say?
  • The district is not giving parents the complete
    picture. Were being led into a trap theres
    something fishy with this picture.
  • Why are they forcing this if people dont want

Framing for Recommendations
  • We acknowledge that the district is facing many
    complex challenges related to middle schools.
    Our recommendations address challenges in four
  • School Quality
  • Expanding Language Pathways
  • Student Assignment
  • Communication with Families

Challenges School Quality
  • Were losing students during middle school years.
  • Theres uneven academic achievement across
    SFUSDs middle schools.
  • Schools have different approaches to
    differentiation some schools have honors tracks
    and many schools dont.
  • Theres uneven access to high quality programs,
    curriculum and electives among different schools.

Recommendations School Quality
  • Address issues related to differentiation and
    honors programs.
  • Hold principals and teachers accountable to high
    standards, and support them to meet these

Recommendations School Quality
  • Place highly-effective, culturally competent
    principals and teachers in schools that are
  • Ensure all students have access to high quality
    electives at all middle schools - including
    English Learner and Special Education students.

Challenges Language Pathways
  • Theres a legal and moral obligation to serve the
    needs of English Learner students, who speak many
    different languages.
  • The district has invested in immersion programs
    in grades K-5, and needs more capacity to serve
    students in grades 6-8.

Challenges Language Pathways
  • All parents want their kids to have access to a
    multilingual education.
  • In addition to the cost of adding a 7th period
    and providing materials to accommodate expanding
    language programs, theres a shortage of
    qualified multilingual teachers.

Recommendations Language Pathways
  • Establish clear criteria and priorities for
    meeting the needs of students who speak languages
    besides Spanish, Cantonese Mandarin (for
    example, Samoan).
  • Incorporate serving general education and Special
    Education students in plans for expanding
    language programs.
  • Identify needs and strategies related to
    resources, and the tradeoffs.

Challenges Student Assignment
  • Feeder patterns were added to the student
    assignment policy at the last minute in 2010, and
    adopted without community discussion.
  • Theres a projected increase in the middle school
    student population.
  • Uneven enrollment means we now have some
    over-subscribed and some under-enrolled middle

Challenges Student Assignment
  • Theres no middle school in Bayview and not
    enough middle school capacity in the southeast
    part of the city - which has the highest
    concentration of students.
  • Unless the district shares a concrete plan for
    opening a new school in the Bayview - and
    involves the community in shaping that plan -
    people wont trust that its going to happen.

Challenges Student Assignment
  • Its complicated to implement language pathways
    in the context of a choice system.
  • When schools are under-enrolled its usually
    because parents believe they are not high quality.

Recommendations Student Assignment
  • Do not implement feeder patterns. Retain the
    choice system, while strengthening the quality of
    all middle schools.
  • Strengthen the mechanisms for choice in middle
    schools, and improve communication to families
    about ways different schools can address
    students academic and enrichment needs.

Recommendations Student Assignment
  • Create magnet schools with high-quality
    programs that attract families, like arts,
    science technology, or language. Place these
    schools strategically to support diversity and
    meet program demand.
  • Establish coherent pathways for programs that
    serve specific student populations with special
    needs, including English Learner and Special
    Education students.

RecommendationsStudent Assignment
  • Focus on these tie-breakers for middle school
  • siblings
  • an equity mechanism
  • attendance area.
  • Open a high-quality middle school in the Bayview.
    Communicate details about this plan right away
    (including action steps and the timeline).

Challenges Communication
  • Parents dont trust that the district is
    listening to them, or is honest about its plans.
  • Information related to important district
    initiatives is often missing altogether, is not
    presented in parent-friendly format, and/or is
    not translated.

Recommendations Communication
  • So far, no one in the district is being held
    accountable for communication with families -
    especially parents who dont speak English.
  • Provide a parent-friendly report about the middle
    school quality assessment inventory, highlighting
    the challenges and strengths of each school.
  • Develop and share detailed plans for action steps
    to strengthen middle schools, including
    measureable objectives and timelines.

Our Next Steps
  • The PAC and PPS are committed to representing the
    voices of families we have heard from over the
    past several years.
  • We will continue to work with and make
    recommendations to SFUSD staff the Board of
  • We know it is our task to hold you accountable
    for our childrens education and we will.

Next Steps in Process and Timeline
  • Tuesday, May 24 District staff gives the first
    reading of the Superintendent's proposed policy
    on feeder patterns
  • Tuesday, May 31  Ad Hoc Committee on Student
    Assignment meets to discuss the middle school
  • Monday, June 13 Ad Hoc Committee on Student
    Assignment meets to discuss the middle school
  • Tuesday, June 14 BOE votes on the middle school
    assignment policy

Contact Us
  • Our full report of findings recommendations
    with parents quotes is available online at
  • Parent Advisory Council
  • (415) 355-2201
  • Parents for Public Schools
  • (415) 861-7077
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