SFUSD begins school year with new changes

SFUSD begins school year with new changes

Originally published in the San Francisco Examiner.

We’re back. Did you miss the sound of children playing on the school yard or the vision of youth exploring the Presidio’s history? I did!

Every year at the beginning of the year people ask me what’s new. The reality is part of what makes our job as educators so fun is every day is new — a new opportunity to broaden or deepen a young person’s understanding. So when you ask what’s new, the real answer is: a lot.

Today I’ll tell you about a few new things that are top of mind though.

Teachers paid more

Everyone knows how expensive it is to live in the Bay Area. We get the same base amount of funding from California for teacher salaries as Bakersfield or somewhere less expensive to live. In spite of this challenge, with the help of generous voters in San Francisco we have prioritized raising teacher salaries while maintaining one of the lowest class sizes and most competitive benefits packages of any school district in the state.

It takes many people working together to make great schools for our students and teaching is fundamental to our mission. That’s why I’m happy to share we’ve made great leaps with teacher salaries. SFUSD’s average teacher salary has gone up from over $62,000 five years ago to over $83,000 this year.

Computer Science — it’s elementary

We want everyone who grows up in San Francisco to have the option to live and work in San Francisco. Five years ago only 700 students took Computer Science. Last year, over 25,000 students took Computer Science, including elementary school students. We’re educating students to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

Being safe online

Not only do we want students to be creators of technology, we also want them to be wise consumers. We know that people, including students, are spending an increasing amount of time online these days. That’s why we believe it’s important to teach students about issues like cyber-bullying, online privacy and their digital footprint.

I’m proud that our district has now been recognized by Common Sense Education as the largest public school district in California to be Digital Citizenship Certified for implementing safe, appropriate, and responsible online behaviors for students and staff.

Our work in Digital Citizenship and Computer Science learning is made possible because of ongoing support from Salesforce and other community partners.

Initiating wonder

What do you think of when you think of middle school? We think middle school is a time to initiate wonder. However, in many of our middle schools, if you are a student who needs extra support, you probably won’t be able to take an art class because our schools have to schedule your study skills or extra English class at the same time other students are taking an elective class. That’s because this was the only option in the traditional middle school schedule with the time and money schools have to work with.

Now we’re changing this with our middle grades redesign and offering what we call an exploratory wheel. The exploratory wheel approach is beginning this fall at two schools but once fully in effect, 100% of middle grades students will take computer science, health, a world language and art every year. Classes will also be more hands-on with more robust exploration using project based learning.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Let’s get back to school!

(And remember to slow down and pay extra close attention to pedestrians if you’re driving near our schools).

This page was last updated on October 31, 2019