San Francisco's new superintendent pushes expansive plan to boost Black student achievement

Nov 21, 2017

When the state released testing data for California’s public school students last month, results for San Francisco Unified’s African American students were the lowest in the district — again. 

The community response was strong. Rev. Amos Brown, the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, called those scores “criminal” and demanded a “state of emergency” to rally citywide resources and help all students thrive.

But test results don’t paint a full picture of the long and complicated history of educating the city’s Black students. The large test score gap between African American students and the group scoring higher — white or in some cases Asian students — has persisted with only minor fluctuations for a quarter century. Court-mandated desegregation and other initiatives aimed at radically reshaping that narrative have come and gone.  

There are bright spots in the district’s recent efforts, including the launch of an African American Achievement and Leadership initiative nearly three years ago.  And last week, the district’s new superintendent, Vincent Matthews, unveiled a detailed, expansive — and expensive — plan designed to help African American students feel safe and connected, and compel their teachers to stick around. The plan capitalizes on what’s already working.   KALW's education reporter Lee Romney is here to explain.

Editor's note: KALW's license is held by the San Francisco Unified School District