In what appears to be the most dramatic set of challenges in decades, five of the 10 San Francisco schools eligible for millions of dollars in new funding must close, replace half their staffs or convert to charter schools by late August, according to U.S. Department of Education guidelines.

California officials this week announced the three options and an initial list of 188 state schools eligible for the intervention grants.  A fourth and less disruptive option is the so-called transformation model.   It requires reforming instruction and replacing a principal that has been on the job for more than two years.

While a school’s fate will be determined at the district level, Washington’s rules prevent districts from taking the easiest    route.

Districts such as San Francisco with nine or more Tier I or Tier II schools  may opt for the milder transformation model in no more “than 50 percent of those schools. “   (Tier I, II and III are designations that refer to poverty, funding and performance levels.  If you want  tier details, click here. )

“We’re trying to respond to the new information and the new requirements in the most meaningful way,” said Dee Dee Desmond, the executive director for Reform & Accountability for the San Francisco Unified School District.

Desmond said that in the past,  San Francisco has developed a reform strategy that encouraged stability. “In helping these schools to be the best that they can be” the changes needed “are not the things that are most draconian,” she said.  A shift in principals, and teacher turnover already happens frequently at struggling schools and creates instability that is part of the problem, she added.

California’s 188 low-performing schools initially included 12 in San Francisco.

While the state total has remained the same, Jill Tucker from the Chronicle reported that as of Friday, 37 schools have rotated on and off the list.  Two San Francisco high schools outside of the Mission—Thurgood Marshall and Burton—were removed.  At present the city has 10 schools on the list, six of them in the Mission District.

Although California officials have yet to turn in the federal School Improvement Grant , nearly all of the schools on the list must implement one of the four options in time for the new school year  to qualify for $50,000 to $2 million apiece annually for the next three years.

If all 188 schools got the maximum award, California would get $376 million a year for three years, but the state is likely to get less since the grants depend on the enrollment at the schools, according to the guidelines.

The state, can set aside 25 percent of the funds for low-performing schools that need more time for the education reform under the the federal guidelines

Also in store for the low-performing schools: longer school days, more in-class coaching for teachers and rewards (presumably financial) for teachers, principals and other staff who “have increased student achievement and high school graduation rates,” according to the guidelines.

There are punitive measures as well.   Members of the staff who “after ample opportunities have been provided for them to improve their professional practice have not done so,” will be removed, the guidelines read.

While it appeared earlier this week that all of the principals of the low-performing schools would be forced out, the guidelines allow some wiggle room.  New principals – those hired within the last two years – at schools already implementing “in whole or in part” reforms required by the grant, may stay.

Mark Sanchez, the new principal at Horace Mann Middle School, said Friday that he was set to meet with district officials next Thursday to discuss his school’s future.  It’s possible, however,  that under the guidelines, Sanchez could simply get additional funds to continue the programs he started this year.  Many of the changes fall under those described in the guidelines including adding time to the school day and making significant curriculum changes.

Depending on the amount of change the schools have already undergone, four others could be in the same position including Richard Duber of John O’Connell High School, Alisa Gonzalez of Bryant Elementary, Richard Curci of Everett, and Eric Guthertz of Mission High.  The principals at Cesar Chavez, Willie Brown Jr., John Muir, Paul Revere and Washington Carver have all held their positions for more than two years, according to the schools.

While the district – after consultation with the community – makes the final decision on a school’s intervention model, the feds and state will monitor  progress over the life of the three year grant.

Among other reporting requirements, the schools must report annually on the model chosen, the number of minutes in the school year, test scores, percentage of students completing advanced courses and teacher attendance rate.

Mission Schools on the list:

Tier I: Cesar Chavez Elementary, Bryant Elementary, Horace Mann Middle School, Everett Middle School

Tier II: Mission High School, John O’Connell High School

Other San Francisco Schools (all Tier I) : Willie L. Brown Jr.  Elementary (Bay View) , John Muir Elementary (Hayes Valley), Paul Revere Elementary (Bernal Heights), George Washington Carver  Elementary (Bay View).

Oakland Unified School District

Tier I:  Alliance Academy,  Elmhurst Community Prep, Explore Middle,  ROOTs International Academy, United for Success.

Hayward Unified School District

Tier I:  Burbank Elementary, Longwood Elementary.

Tier II: Tennyson High

Mt. Diablo Unified

Tier I: Bel Air Elementary, Meadow Homes Elementary, Oak Grove Middle, Rio Vista Elementary, Shore Acres Elementary

Tier II: Glenbrook Middle

West Contra Costa Unified

Tier I: Lincoln Elementary

Tier II:  De Anza Senior High, Helms Middle

For Tier III schools click here.

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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  1. As Ms Desmond stated

    ” A shift in principals, and teacher turnover already happens frequently at struggling schools and creates instability that is part of the problem, she added.”

    So why would the District want to make these changes. New pricipal and teachers just means that there will be new personalities to adjust to and the new principals’ and staff will have to re-establish “TRUST AND CREDABILITY” even if they have been there for 2 or 3 years but if you take a close look there is TRUST and CREABILITY, restructuring will only take the students back three steps and with time always going forward how do you recover that lost time?

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