Young students sit at the table with their teacher Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

A Movement Is Under Way to Transform SF’s Public Schools

Achieving equity in our schools

Sylvia Yee reflects on the challenges of making big, far-reaching changes in teaching and learning. And why some things must change if we want to help all children succeed.

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As a former classroom teacher, I know how hard it can be to make big, far-reaching changes in teaching and learning. Old habits often stand in the way of helping all children succeed.

But there is an exciting movement under way in San Francisco to transform public education across the district, and it’s already getting good results. On recent visits to city schools, I had a firsthand look at some of the positive changes that are happening. As you walk the hallways of schools like John Muir Elementary, Buena Vista Horace Mann or Bryant Elementary, you see places that are brimming with a sense of excitement and possibility. With student bodies that are overwhelmingly African-American and Latino from low-income families, principals and teachers are creating cultures where everyone has a laser focus on improving student achievement.

The changes are not unique to these schools. Under Superintendent Richard Carranza and his talented leadership team, the San Francisco Unified School District is taking steps to narrow the achievement gap for children of color and those living in low-income neighborhoods. From strengthening the early education system to making the necessary investments to turn around historically low-performing schools, Carranza and his colleagues are bringing fresh energy and ideas to the work of improving academic success across the board.

Some question whether it’s possible to transform large urban school districts into high-performing, high-achieving organizations for all students, but school and district leaders in San Francisco are on a path to prove the doubters wrong. At the Haas, Jr. Fund, we are inspired by their commitment, their vision and the early results they’ve achieved, and we are making a bet that they can deliver on the promise of district-wide reform.

The Haas, Jr. Fund’s stepped-up support for the San Francisco Unified School District is based on our belief that educational equity is one of the great civil rights causes of our time. We share the commitment of district leaders to making deep changes that will close the achievement gap and enable more students to succeed in school and in life. That’s why we are supporting the superintendent and his team to carry out successful early education reforms, improve school-community partnerships, and strengthen their leadership capacity so they can unleash lasting change. The Fund has given $2 million in grants since 2012 to support this effort.

Educational equity is one of the great civil rights causes of our time. In San Francisco, school and district leaders are on a path to transform the public education system into a high-performing organization for all students. We share their vision, and we’re making a bet that they can deliver.

Sylvia Yee, VP of Programs

The San Francisco Unified School District cannot do this work alone. The city government, parents, community groups, foundations, business and other partners need to join forces with the district to change the odds for students in our public schools.

If you aren’t already involved, we hope you will find a way to join in the work of building a better future for our city’s children—and all of San Francisco.

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