November 2021 Newsletter (Issue 1 of 4)
Greetings, San Francisco Unified School District Community!
The African American Achievement & Leadership Initiative (AAALI) team would like to thank you for your collaboration and commitment to serve our African American students and families. It takes a village to raise our children and we could not have accomplished so much without your support. As we kick-off into the 2021-2022 school year, we seek to stay rooted in SFUSD’s core values, which are largely driven by our community partnerships. Therefore, please read our quarterly newsletter, which contains opportunities for you to become more aware of/involved with AAALI’s initiatives.
Dr. Silindra McRay, Jerel Baldomero, Ashley Brown, Laticia Erving, Linda Martley-Jordan, Bobby Pope
AAALI's Core Purpose
Promote the success of African American students and families by supporting academic and social-emotional learning, elevating effective practices and strategies, and cultivating leaders in the work of deconstructing systemic barriers to African American achievement.
Our 2021-2022 Continuous Improvement Commitment
San Francisco Unified School District is committed to improving the processes and procedures that work towards supporting each and every student to receive the quality instruction and equitable support required to thrive in the 21st century. Given this reality, it requires us to take a cyclical approach to problem-solving. The term “continuous improvement” is used across industries to describe a process or approach to problem solving that represents an ongoing effort to improve outcomes (American Society for Quality, n.d.). In continuously improving systems, change occurs both quickly and incrementally, as organizations learn from experience while testing and refining strategies to produce better results. As such, for the 2021-2022 school year, AAALI has made a commitment to the continuous improvement goal of:
Creating 2-way communication structures that highlight tools and resources in support of AA student, family and educator success.
During our summer planning retreat we, as a team, we asked ourselves three questions: 1) What are we trying to improve? 2) What changes can we make and why? 3) How will we know that change led to an improvement? These are the same questions that each department in the District has been compelled to ask. Therefore, AAALI’s aforementioned goal stems from an introspective look at how we can not only disseminate information in support of our African American students, families and educators, but also receive feedback on what is and is not working. Some of the things that we have already implemented - or plan to implement this year - to test our theory of change are:
The creation of an AAALI quarterly newsletter, intended to share information about our work in support of African American students, families and educators, while also providing a means for stakeholders to get involved.
On Thursday, September 16, 2021 The African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) in collaboration with the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI) and leaders from various departments within SFUSD hosted a “Black to School” Town Hall. Together, we hosted 101 participants. To watch the recording click this link or visit www.sfusd.edu/aapac.
Various programmatic goals as outlined, below:
Program Descriptions and Highlights
African-American Parent Advisory Council
The mission of the African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) is to listen, educate, and advocate for families of Black students for a high quality educational experience. The AAPAC works to develop resources that allow families to more actively support the academic instruction (and responses to behavior that) their children receive and engage with educators and administrators in the San Francisco Unified School District in a collaborative manner to maximize outcomes for our children.
Unpack the systemic push out and impact of racism that Black students and families experience
Increase the sense of belonging felt by our families
Strengthen collaborative partnerships between Black families, SFUSD and community partners
Uplift Black excellence year round in all aspects of our children’s education
Ultimately increase the academic outcomes for all Black Students
This year, AAPAC is focused on Black Resilience and Accountability. AAPAC wants to not only celebrate our resilience, but build it too. During our monthly general meetings held on the 3rd Thursday of each month, we will share resources and tools to build our toolkits as we advocate, support our kids academically, and really heal.
We are also going to focus on Accountability. We must hold our leaders in the school district and the community as well as ourselves as parent partners accountable to the outcomes of Black children. That includes a greater push for district transparency. We need two-way communication and follow through on the many shifts being made to ensure our students are thriving.
We also want to increase AAPAC’s responsiveness to Black family requests, concerns and suggestions and to strengthen our partnerships in and outside of SFUSD. Lastly, we are focusing on expansion. We are looking to grow the AAPAC Leadership Team, hire additional staff, increase the number of functioning site based affinity spaces and diversify our outreach strategies. If your site is interested in starting or strengthening your site-based AAPAC, please contact Laticia Erving at ErvingL@sfusd.edu.
Learn more at www.sfusd.edu/aapac.
While the 4-year graduation rate for African American students has increased over the last several years there remains an urgent need to ensure that African American students are accessing and mastering rigorous coursework and receive support in matriculating to and through college. In working with high schools over the last five years the AAALI team has observed gaps in delivering the services that African American students (and all students) need to thrive and access higher education and 21st-century careers.
Advance aims to improve:
- Number of As/Bs/Cs in A-G courses
- On-time graduation
- CSU/UC eligibility
- College matriculation
Advance sites (Balboa, Burton and Galileo) coordinate support for Black students by providing 1-on-1 transcript reviews and graduation planning meetings, annually, intentional credit recovery enrollment, providing teacher check-ins each grading period for students in danger of failing, improving how we re-engage learning in the classroom and intentional Black family partnerships.
Currently, Ashley Brown, Program Manager for Advance, is collaborating with the District’s content supervisors in Curriculum and Instruction and our LEAD teams around curriculum-embedded assessments and school-wide supports. Additionally, for the first time, Advance counselors are cross-collaborating with district counseling in a Counseling x AAALI Professional Learning Community.
Mastering Cultural Identity
Originally developed through the African American Male Achievement (AAMA) department in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the Mastering Cultural Identity Course (MCI) is an academic mentoring model that offers classes taught by African American Facilitators, during the school day, in select K–12 schools. MCI lessons draw on historical and contemporary African and African American culture to support students as they explore their identity options, learn how to manage their emotions, learn how to channel their personal will, and develop a positive sense of purpose for themselves, their families, and their communities.
The MCI curriculum is built upon the premise that stereotypical notions of Black masculinity and femininity have shaped the way young Black men and women self-identify. Consequently, a paramount goal is to cultivate healthy identities amongst Black male and female students as a means of improving Black student achievement. This is in part because the instructors believe that schools are often hostile to young Black students and that Black boys and girls have also been systemically encouraged or socialized to take on self-defeating characteristics, particularly in the realm of academics (Nasir, 2012; Nasir et. al., 2013).
Nasir, N. (2012). Racialized Identities: Race and Achievement Among African American Youth. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Nasir, N. I. S., Ross, K. M., McKinney de Royston, M., Givens, J., & Bryant, J. N. (2013). Dirt on My Record: Rethinking Disciplinary Practices in an All-Black, All-Male Alternative Class. Harvard Educational Review, 83(3), 489-512
MCI has expanded our reach, based on need and stakeholder feedback! Our growth is as follows:
2016-2017 at 3 sites
2017-2018 at 4 sites
2018-2019 at 5 sites
2019-2020 at 6 sites
2020-2021 at 6 sites
2021-2022 at 11 sites
We are also excited to announce that Starr King has gone from 5 student participants to
12 participants . Our Facilitator on that campus is scheduled to meet with the Literacy Team on campus to align our American Reading Company (ARC) partnership goals with on campus literacy goals. At Charles Drew, the site has full enrollment and our Facilitators are doing great work. Middle School sites are active and operating and our Program Manager, Bobby Pope, is working with each site (leader and Facilitator) to align our work with campus goals, and encouraging site leaders to lead the charge. Our High School highlight, Civic Center, is getting more students weekly and are continuing to implement the ARC curriculum, as designed in our MCI program rollout. To that end, our team members are in meetings with SFUSD’s Curriculum and Instruction team to further align MCI and ARC implementation with site literacy goals to ensure alignment.
We are excited that our second Professional Development had full attendance and went well and we will continue to level students, set power goals, with hopes of improving students’ love for reading and their lexile levels. Lastly, our Human Resources partners have connected with all Facilitators to provide career, or credential pathway support. Each facilitator will also be assigned a credential pathways coach by the District.
If you are interested in partnering with AAALI to implement the MCI curriculum at your site, please reach out to PopeB@sfusd.edu.
Check out a short video of our work.
Black Star Rising Summer (BSR) STEM
The Black Star Rising STEM Program (BSR) provides two academic course offerings of instruction. Black Star Rising Freedom Academy (Spring) and Black Star Rising STEM Summer. These ethnic-centered classes were created specifically to “center the curriculum and instruction in the cultural heritages of African Americans” Gay (201). Our learning modules are designed to inspire, engage and motivate students to fully participate in math and science classes as they are elevated and enter and matriculate through high school.
Black Star Rising (BSR) is a cohort based high school STEM focused readiness and success program, building on two components of our SFUSD Graduate Profile, (1) Global, Local and Digital Identity: Ready to Tackle a Changing World, (2) Career and Life Skills: Ready for Career, Ready for Life. Our main goal is to prepare rising African American 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade students for STEM careers through rigorous direct math instruction, STEM career exposure, opportunities to access higher level math and science courses, dual enrollment, and an internship that introduces students to workplace readiness skills. This program positively increases the implementation of culturally relevant and responsive pedagogies in its curriculum. Also our academic support in science, technology, engineering, physics and math moves the needle for students towards high school graduation and eligibility for post-secondary options without the need for remediation.
Black Star Rising has expanded and developed another cultural learning environment, the Black Star Rising -Freedom Academy (BSR-FA) for current African American 8th grade students. Our pilot BSR-FA kick-off in March 2021 as a 2-hour, 10-week Saturday only, non-credit 90 minute class that introduces students to high school math and science concepts. Students learned about the history of math and science and the inventions created by African American scientists, inventors and programmers who used the same math and science concepts that the students were learning in their creation of the inventions. Our students also participated in the UC MDTP Assessment Learning Modules. These assessments provided the teaching staff, students and parents with a snapshot of the level of student mastery of 8th grade math concepts. Our partnership with UCSF MESA and Mayor London Breeds “Opportunity for all Internship Initiative '' were great incentives for our students. Our pilot's target of 30 students were recruited with the support of middle school Counselors, Deans and Asst. Principals of student referrals to the BSR-FA. We ended the Black Star Rising Freedom Academy with a total of 28 students. These students had a direct pathway into BSR 9th grade Summer. If you know of a student interested in being part of either program, please reach out to Linda Jordan at JordanL@sfusd.edu.
The African American Postsecondary Pathways was designed to meet and support rising 9th thru 12th grade African American students in successfully completing 4-years of high school on-track, eligible to enter a 4-year college/university or another post-secondary trade or training option. The focus of this work is to interrupt the trend of African American students’ off-track status by the second semester of 9th grade. By working collaboratively with our high school counseling teams and college focused CBO partners this direct service has benefited students and families in their Post Secondary options. We work closely with the following SFUSD comprehensive high schools: Mission, The Academy, Lincoln, John O’Connell, Thurgood Marshall, SOTA and Lowell high schools.
The following illustrates some of the work we collaborate on with our site Counselors and CBO Partners:
Annual HBCU Fair
Annual UC Jumpstart Workshops
Series of Quarterly On-Track Workshops
The work is led by the PSP program Manager who meets bi-weekly with site Counseling teams to assess and disrupt barriers to student academic success (collaboratively using tools to minimize implicit bias and confront structural racism). The PSP Manager also provides high school students with case management throughout the school year, manages the BSR program in the summer, maintains regular contact with families and students in the college going process and designs internships and other meaningful experiences for African American students throughout the school year.
Take a moment and visit our African American Postsecondary Pathways site.
Youth Participatory Action Research Project!
While we acknowledge that some progress has been made towards inclusion, it is true that most inclusion embraces a “check box” approach that fails to penetrate the root of our students’ disenfranchisement. If it did, our results would be different. Additionally, along those same lines, whether there is an effort to make surface level changes or get to the root of systemic barriers, at least three things remain apparent - 1) We are left out of conversations altogether AND/OR 2) When we are included, there is an over-reliance on Black educators and people to fix institutional problems that we, by and large, did not create AND/OR 3) When we are asked how one might facilitate change, we often leave out those most impacted - the students! The aforementioned narrative leads to Black staff who are doubly-burdened by the problem and the need to fix it and/or students whose voice is left out of a process that says its aim is to help.
Despite these inequalities and unfair expectations, the African American community still bands together in an effort to dismantle supremacies that we did not create, in order to clear the literal and figurative paths that our students walk everyday. We provide all of this framing so that it is understood that the obstacles that our students have faced preceded this viral pandemic and, quite frankly, exacerbated challenging realities for many of us once it arrived. But, as usual, we are soliciting the support of Black staff, who 1) Didn’t create the system that needs dismantling and 2) whose personal and professional realities mirror that of the students they are still trying to serve. But, we know- as the common phrase goes - “We are so strong” - and, once again, with capacity limitations, burnout and fatigue, we will get it done - in the name of African American student success. While the example of our strength serves as a double-entendre in this case, We are sure that most of us would prefer to use the strength that is associated and embedded into who we are to create systems instead of fighting against them.
So, with the framing provided, the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative, in conjunction with the Facilitators/Instructors who serve African American students through the Mastering Cultural Identity course, are proposing to address the unacceptable fact that there are decisions that are being made for and about African American students and families without authentically incorporating their voice or the voices of the staff in closest relationship to them. With representation of voice in mind, and a need to create a system that better serves us - it is our hope to implement a Youth Participatory Action Research or YPAR study that taps into the academic prowess of our students, while simultaneously creating the space for them to advocate for changes in District and/or school policies and practice that do not serve them or do not serve them well.
Through the iLab’s Innovation Award process and close partnership with Kingmakers of Oakland, we are hoping to establish a structure for Black student voices to be honored beyond an invitation or “seat at the table.” We hope to initiate a shift in the paradigm of whose voices lead the change for education. For the students involved in the project, our goal is for the development of their leadership and collaboration skills. This could look like increased interest in advocating for change at their schools and/or at the district level. We should also see active engagement in the development of this strategy by students in the Spring as we engage in the design process together and we should see completion of a YPAR study in the 2021-2022 academic year if we are successful. For the school communities and central office departments involved, our hope is that we continue to develop how to authentically collaborate with our students and the staff closest in relationship to them in order to enact effective change with and not for our Black students and staff. Success for this project looks like recommendations for change developed by our Black students and staff, while also developing a structure for those recommendations to be heard and implemented by the District.
AAALI is currently planning to form a Stakeholder Design Team in the Spring of 2022. The district has teacher retention as a high priority, and this is a way for AAALI to integrate educator voices as we move forward in planning. As such, AAALI is actively considering how we work with and support all Black stakeholders in the district: students, educators, and families. To achieve our goal of Black excellence within SFUSD, AAALI cannot ignore Black educators. Our first “study” will allow us to get acclimated with the cycle of inquiry, prior to engaging with the Stakeholder Design Team on other areas of interest, affecting our African American school communities.
Our hope is that the future Stakeholder Design Team will support AAALI with strategic planning. The data and information gathered will be used by the AAALI team internally to make small shifts (Continuous Improvement) and adjust and revise our theory of action and measurable outcomes for reporting and evaluation. This starting process of collective design allows AAALI to operate as a department centered around action research, advocacy for resources and policy, and direct actions taken by the team and its programs - BUT, with the collaboration of our stakeholders! Be on the lookout for more information on how to get involved!
We are engaged with Dr. Subini Annamma at Stanford University who is doing research for a project named Searching for Solutions, that focuses on interviewing Black youth who have been suspended in SFUSD about their experiences with & solutions for disproportionality in disciplinary exclusion & special education in the district. We are ready to re-engage Black parents and begin recruiting Black youth. We have permission to recruit Black youth from all middle and high schools in the district. We are reaching out to you because we would appreciate it if you can help us spread the word with families and students.
Who is eligible? Black youth who have been suspended anytime in SFUSD who are in any SFUSD middle or high school qualify.
Will there be compensation? They will be paid $20 per interview they complete.
How much time/participation will it take? We are doing up to three interviews or focus groups (youth can choose if they want to be a part of 1 or all of the interviews/focus groups).
Why is this important? This is a chance for Black youth to tell their stories and to identify what is and isn’t working, and offer solutions based on their experiences. They are the experts.
You can learn more about the project here. Parents, if you do NOT want your students to participate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents, If you have any questions or you want your student to participate, you can email email@example.com.
Dr. Silindra McRay
Director/Special Assistant to the Superintendent
Educational Policy Analyst
Advance Program Manager
(AAPAC) African American Parent Advisory Council Program Manager
Postsecondary Pathway Manager
(MDP) Manhood Development Program Manager