School Stakeholders Dive into Data; Share Concerns and "Bright Spots"
Over 120 parents, caregivers, and community members joined SFUSD leaders at the recent data forum.
Wednesday night marked the third year that SFUSD, in collaboration with district parent advisory groups, PPS-SF, and other community organizations, has hosted an event aimed at sharing and discussing the data that informs decision-making and budgeting processes at both the district and individual school levels.
The event, called Telling the Story Behind the Numbers: Making Sense of District Data, was held at James Lick Middle School and was well attended, drawing twice as many participants as the previous year.
Superintendent Message About Data: Need to Look Beyond Averages, Assure Success for "Each and Every Student"
The evening began with remarks by Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, who reviewed some district-level data made and connections to themes in his 90 day plan, which was announced on November 14, 2017. He reiterated SFUSD's stated mission to "ensure all students receive equitable instruction to thrive in the 21st century."
Superintendent Matthews noted that, while on average, SFUSD is the highest performing urban district in the state, averages conceal existing gaps in outcomes between Asian and White students and African American and Latino students in our district. He highlighted the need to come up with strategies to interrupt systemic barriers and summarized his proposal to start with specific initiatives in historically underserved schools and schools with high equity gaps.
Breakout Sessions Provided Grade-Level Data and Time For Participant Analysis and Feedback
After hearing from Superintendent Matthews and receiving a quick primer in SFUSD's budgeting process from Executive Director of Budget Services Thu Cung, participants chose to attend one of three smaller group sessions to look at more detailed data by student grade level. There were separate groups focused on data for pre-K through 5th grade, middle school, and high school.
In addition to test score data, these sessions focused on other indicators that provide information to SFUSD leaders and educators. Parents and caregivers also benefit from understanding how these measures relate to their own student's experience and success in school. Some measures discussed included:
- rates of absenteeism
- discipline data, including not just suspensions, but also incidents when students are referred "out of the classroom"
- results of social-emotional learning surveys that measure traits like "growth mindset" and "self-efficacy"
- responses to surveys given to students, parents and educators to understand school culture and climate
Some SFUSD Strategies Showing Progress in "Turning Around" Data Trends for Underserved Student Groups
After data was presented, school leaders shared examples of practices they viewed as showing promise in working towards the priority goal of closing existing gaps between student groups in one or more of the measures shared. Some promising practices included a mentoring program for foster youth, an African American Male Achievement program at Mission High, and increased STEM and STEAM electives in middle school.
Parents and caregivers also shared how they used data to monitor their own children's progress and to advocate on their behalf for needed school interventions. Parents, community members, and SFUSD staff broke into small discussion groups to share what stood out to them in looking at the data and what they would like to understand better. Questions were generated to bring back to the closing panel discussion.
After Break-Out Sessions, Most-Asked Questions Addressed By Panel of SFUSD Leaders
The evening closed with an opportunity to pose some of the questions generated in small group discussions to a panel of SFUSD leaders. Questions touched on subjects such as why disproportionate numbers of African American and Latino students are being taken out of classrooms for disciplinary action, how to address chronic absenteeism and high rates of teacher turnover, and how to improve school culture, climate, and safety. Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco was live-tweeting the Q&A, and details of the questions and responses can be found on our Twitter feed (@ppssf).
Look at Data For Your School! Here is How.
One purpose of the data forum was to examine district-level trends. Another purpose was to model the process that happens at every school in SFUSD: principals, School Site Councils (SSCs), and English Learner Advisory Councils (ELACs) look at detailed data about how students are doing overall at their school and identify needs for new programs, increased investment, and/or special supports for groups of students with needs that are not being met. The data and planning process is then brought to the whole school at a community meeting.
Every parent can participate in this process. If you haven't seen data for your school, highlights for every school are available on the SFUSD website. The California School Dashboard is a great new data resource available from the California Department of Education that allows anyone to look at data and see details by school and by different demographic groups. We have put together some resources on how to find and use this data.