Friday, January 22, 2010

The Solution to SFUSD Budget Cuts

In the news today: San Francisco Unified School District is facing $113 million in budget cuts for the upcoming school year. This is especially distressing, considering that the State and the Federal Government announced that larger sums of money would be available to school districts in need via programs like Race to the Top. To make matters worse, these budget cuts will most greatly affect the urban students who are already at a socioeconomic disadvantage.

San Francisco’s children deserve better than increased class sizes, underpaid teachers, and cuts in materials budgets. In order to make up for the impending shortfalls in students’ school experiences, we'd like to propose a comprehensive tutoring program to be implemented and woven into the fabric of San Francisco’s hardest hit schools. Personalized tutoring – a “Class of One” – would go a long way towards effectively supporting classroom instruction in a climate such as this. Providing tutoring for San Francisco’s most deserving and needy students is not as expensive as most think; the Tutorpedia Foundation can provide high quality tutoring to SFUSD students for about $1,000/year. Moreover, the implementation of a tutoring program enables the district to appeal to other sources of funding (ASES grants with the state, corporate foundations, private donations) in order to provide this service if they contract with local nonprofits.

It’s clear that public money will not close the achievement gap and level the academic playing field for San Francisco’s students. It’s time for public school districts to get creative about how to best educate students, and partner with local nonprofit organizations in order to give kids the personalized academic attention they desperately need.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Diversity in School

We are published again in the Almanac, as a letter to the editor made press!

I said that taking away the opportunity for mostly low-income students from Ravenswood to attend Menlo Park schools would be a big mistake.

Instead of being a burden on the school district, opening up enrollment would improve the district's financial situation by enabling Menlo Park to apply for soon-to-be available federal and state funding for low-income (Title 1) and under-performing (Program Improvement 2) students through Bush's No Child Left Behind program and Obama's Race to the Top initiatives. The best use of those funds is to make education more personal - for one-on-one tutoring. Instead of limiting opportunity, opening doors to out-of-district students would create a well-balanced, diverse, and more authentic learning atmosphere for everyone.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Purpose of Education

The Purpose of Education, according to Dr. King

Education and freedom go hand in hand. Through education, we gain exposure to new and old knowledge, new and old ideas, new and old philosophies. We train our minds to think critically, grow and expand, and with each addition we become better equipped to make our own decisions, find our passions, change our own lives, and change the world. In many ways, a solid education is the key to great personal and social power in our society.

But as Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We’ve just celebrated the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, so it seems appropriate to meditate today on what he said in 1948, in a speech at Morehouse College about the Purpose of Education.

He said, “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”

On Dr. King’s day, as we reflect on the suffering and inequality in our world, we have to think of how far we’ve come, but also how far remains for us to go. Whether we are considering the immense suffering of the people in Haiti, or the suffering that exists in our local school system, it would do us good to keep in mind the question Dr. King posed in his famous speech, I Have Been to the Mountaintop:

The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help this man in need, what will happen to him?”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Closing the Achievement Gap in Berkeley

KQED's Forum recently did a piece about Berkeley High School's science lab courses. Apparently, BHS holds science labs for basic science courses after regular school hours. It is incredible to me that a core component of an academic subject has been relegated to an after school time slot. The program explained that this has been done in order to better access money that will help to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color at BHS.

This was my response, one that was read on-air during Forum:

I am saddened that students' science lab experience has been relegated to an after school activity, and am incensed that it's even being considered that they be cut. Denying students this basic learning experience not only puts them at an incredible disadvantage when it comes to school achievement, it puts them on unequal ground with other students who have access to such resources. Science education is not a luxury, and cuts to science education will only increase the achievement gap. This may not be evident by the data being used, because many standardized tests do not measure science content. We need to move past using STAR tests as a measure of student achievement, take a more holistic view of what education means, and support the achievement of all students in all content areas. Do not cut core academic resources for underperforming students; doing so can only increase the achievement gap.

If we want to close the achievement gap, we need to give more instructional time to core academic subjects for all students, not take it away or relegate it to an after-school timeslot.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pepsi Refresh Everything Project

Check out the Pepsi Refresh Everything Project for Tutorpedia's "Class of One" idea and VOTE for us beginning February 1st!

We are asking for $50,000 to provide 1-1 tutoring to 50 low-income students in San Francisco. That would mean each student gets 28 weeks of tutoring, one hour per week, for the entire school year. Data shows (ours and others) that 1-1 tutoring improves grades, test scores, school attendance, confidence, and motivation. Parents and teachers report better interactions with adults, and the best learning takes place when a trusting and respectful relationship has been built. More personalized learning - bringing a "Class of One" to students - is the best investment in education.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

1-1 Tutoring Gets Press!

Check us out in USA Today and in The Oakland Tribune!

Lots of federal money at stake now in Race to the Top funds... upwards of $700 million for California! Let's hope our districts and legislators make the best investment - more personalized education and 1-1 tutoring.