Immigrant parents concerned over quality of education in SF schools

April 12, 2012 7:59:37 PM PDT
Parents and children are gathering Thursday night at Sanchez Elementary in San Francisco. They are demanding the district do more to improve the quality of education for immigrant children.

When compared to other ethnic groups, Latino immigrant students in San Francisco continue to score poorly on state academic performance tests. The high school graduation rate is no better.

"We need our Latino kids to graduate, to have the same opportunities that all the kids in the state have," parent Doris Vasquez said.

A coalition of immigrant parents, led by Central American Resource Center in San Francisco, is demanding change. Here's why: only 66 percent of Latino students in San Francisco graduate from high school, slightly better than African-American kids (64 percent), but much lower than other ethnic groups. Latinos are also tied with African-Americans for the highest dropout rate at 20 percent, much worse than white students (11 percent) and Asian-Americans (6 percent).

In the fall of 2010, the San Francisco School District came up with a program called the superintendent's zone. Its focus is to improve the quality of education in underserved communities like the Mission District and Bayview Hunters Point. The program has been getting good results.

"Of the seven schools in the district that showed the greatest growth in API scores, five of them were in the superintendent's zone," deputy superintendent Richard Carranza said.

The school district hopes to see even better results at the end of the year.

Lorena Melgarejo is with the Central American Resource Center, a non-profit helping immigrant families.

"The district has the willingness to change this, but as parents and as a community we want to put pressure so that there is a real time line around these changes," Melgarejo said.

The district says it welcomes this so-called accountability session. In fact, the president of the school board is attending tonight's meeting.

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