From the Gold Rush days, San Francisco has been a city of entrepreneurs and innovation. It is home to some of the world’s finest cultural institutions and most savvy and creative businesses. At the same time, income inequality is growing faster in our city than in any other city in the country — more than 60 percent of our public school students come from low-income families, and this percentage is increasing. Our school district is one of the highest-achieving urban districts in the state, but it also has some of the widest student achievement gaps when race and family income are considered. We need to pull together and make our public schools the next big thing in San Francisco.
That’s why I was excited to see the launch of the One City Campaign by the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation (sf.citi) and Mayor Ed Lee, encouraging tech employees to volunteer in our public schools. We must make sure that our schools give all our children a top-flight education so they can become the doers, thinkers and leaders that our city will need in the future. No one knows this better than the leaders at the San Francisco Unified School District. They have been hard at work to transform teaching and learning in our schools, and they need support from all of us to bring this work home.
The first step is to get behind our teachers, district leaders and the Vision 2025 process. Crafted through a citywide conversation with a broad range of San Franciscans, including parents and students, Vision 2025 paints a picture of what graduating students must know and be able to do 10 years into the future. This vision is important because we can’t restructure the way schools do their work unless we all know where we are going.
Vision 2025 focuses on igniting every student’s spark and ensuring that all students have the knowledge and abilities they need to succeed in college, civic life and 21st century careers. This involves cultivating self-awareness so students understand what they are good at and where they are headed before they graduate. It also means mastery of core academic subjects, the ability to speak at least two languages, fluency in multimedia communications, and extensive experience working in teams on applied projects about real-life issues.
This vision calls for our schools to change dramatically. Superintendent Richard Carranza and his team are building a strong performance management system to monitor and guide the transformation. The district is on course with the help of our tech companies to become a model of using digital technology in learning. They have extended the vision to include the city’s youngest students by bridging the long-standing chasm between what happens in preschool and the early grades. When teaching and learning are aligned across preschool and the primary grades, children are far more likely to succeed.
We at the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund support the San Francisco school district and applaud the work of One City. We urge businesses of all kinds — not just technology companies — to invest in our schools. This is a particularly promising moment for San Francisco schools and for all San Franciscans to get behind Vision 2025 because we have such strong leadership in the district and growing numbers of committed partners working together to improve outcomes for our young people.
Everyone has a role to play, whether as donors, volunteers or advocates. Above all, parents and community partners are critical to building better public schools, not just by volunteering in the classroom but also by supporting our children at home and in the community and learning more about Vision 2025.
Together, we can build the next big thing — great public schools — and improve life chances for every child in San Francisco.
Sylvia Yee, a former teacher, is vice president of programs at the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund. To donate or volunteer, contact the San Francisco Education Fund at (415) 695-5400 or visit their website.