San Francisco is a thriving city and I love living here. It nearly has it all: great people, a vibrant economy, and natural beauty in all directions.
But there is one thing San Francisco does’t have: a public education system that does right by low-income African American and Latino students.
One of the wealthiest and most innovative cities in the world can’t teach low-income kids to read, write, and do math.
Nearly every other city in California performs better than San Francisco in educating low-income students, and it’s not like most of the cities are knocking it out of the park.
And the worst part of it all is that the fix is not too hard. Within a decade, I bet San Francisco could be one of the highest performing urban school systems in the country.
But I’m skeptical that will occur. The people who control the system do not want it to change.
Traditional Schools Harm Low-Income Students in San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the richest cities in the world. But when it comes to serving low-income African-American students, the city is trounced by other cities across the state.
A recent report from Innovate Public Schools provides the details.
Low income Latino students don’t do much better.
Charter Schools Help Low-Income Students in San Francisco
Is there something about low-income kids in San Francisco that makes them impossible to educate?
Charter schools in San Francisco are doing a much better job educating low-income students.
More rigorous research (quasi-experimental methadology that controls for socioeconomic variables) has also found that charter schools in the Bay Area dramatically outperform the traditional system. This study found positive .2 standard deviation annual effects in math and .1 effects in reading.
It Could Get Better But It Probably Won’t
Cities like Denver, Washington D.C., and New Orleans are proving that there’s a better way to do public education.
Denver is continuing to deliver results over ten years after its reforms began. Washington D.C. has seen its scores skyrocket on the Nation’s Assessment of Educational Progress. New Orleans achieved amongst the greatest educational gains that the nation has recently seen.
Our team has the privilege of working with cities to make their educational systems better, but I spend most of my time on the road because the San Francisco Unified School Board doesn’t have any interest in the reforms that could make the city’s public schools great.
Unlike the aforementioned cities, San Francisco Unified is extremely unwelcoming to high-quality charter schools.
Instead of partnering with high-quality non-profit charter schools, the school district continues to insist that it will fix itself.
But this will not happen. And low-income kids will keep getting screwed.
So no, San Francisco is not progressive. At least not when it comes to public education.