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Equity Just One of SFUSD's Key Goals

First published in the San Francisco Examiner

When I entered kindergarten at five years old, I was a few years behind where my children were when they began school. My parents were working class and didn’t have the resources to prepare me for school the way that my wife and I were able to prepare our children.

Studies have shown that children living in poverty begin school with smaller vocabularies and lower language skills than children from middle-income families. And, as you can imagine, children who grow up in non-English speaking households have additional work to do in order to benefit from everything taught in school.

Here in San Francisco, almost half the children enrolled in our schools live in poverty. Nearly one third begin school not speaking, reading or writing English.

This fact reminds me of something we talk about a lot in board meetings and among school staff but we probably don’t share enough with everybody else. There are three big goals we continuously focus on: achievement, access and equity, and accountability.

This week I’ll explain what we mean when we say the word equity.

An example of equity: we have been taking a close look at how we distribute resources to make sure that staff who support teachers, students and families—such as social workers and literacy or math specialists—are working in the schools where they are needed the most.

Another example: we’re working to make sure that students with disabilities can join their non-disabled peers in classrooms across the city.

There are many things we do to ensure access and equity for children but there are still unintentional obstacles that remain. We’re working every day to remove these obstacles. The process of ensuring equity takes time and can be complex.

These days, one of the most exciting challenges we face as educators is to make sure all children graduate from high school with their individual talents well-developed—and with a shared set of skills and competencies—so they can go to college or begin a rewarding career in our rapidly-changing 21st century. To do this, we need to recognize that different students need different things throughout their time in our school in order to be successful in life.

I believe that meeting this challenge is what we have to do to make social justice a reality. That is what we mean when we say equity.