Failing Mission Dist. schools strive to make the grade

February 23, 2011 7:18:37 PM PST
Last spring, 188 schools in California were identified as failing. San Francisco had 10, with seven of those in the Mission District alone. There's an effort underway to pull these schools of an academic nose-dive and to keep them from getting shut down.

Gabriel Rodriguez is a first-year math and science teacher. He now understands why Everett Middle School was targeted by the state as one of California's worst performing schools.

"As a 6th grade math teacher, I see kids that come in, that are still learning their times tables," said Rodriguez. "They are still working on those basic four operations... and so really targeting that has been one of the goals."

Ten schools in San Francisco are on the state's list. Seven are in the predominantly Hispanic Mission District.

"I don't think we can afford to use as an excuse that kids that are not learning don't speak English," said superintendent Carlos Garcia. "I think just because you don't speak English doesn't mean you can't be really intelligent and do really great at school."

The district must now comply with the state's reform measures. So one of the targeted schools will close, and changes are being made at Everett and at eight other schools. They are receiving federal dollars as part of the reform plan. But first, some schools like Everett, were forced to replace half of its teachers.

San Francisco Unified applied for and received $45 million from the federal government to be spent over three years. This means each of the so-called worst-performing schools will receive more than $1 million. To be exact, $1.5 million each year. The monies will be used to support changes in the schools.

"Hiring of additional teachers in school sites, providing direct support in tutoring to students," said Zone-Mission superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. "We have instructional coaches working with teachers on their planning and demonstrating model lessons."

"They are helping us kind of review our data and look at what steps can be taken to really kind of maximize the results for our students here," said Rodriguez.

New computers have also been purchased.

"Early results indicate after two of these assessments, that in fact we are seeing some nice student growth across the schools in English, Language Arts and Mathematics," said Guerrero.

But the STAR test, given in the spring, will tell the state if these reform measures are really working.

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