Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blogging from Mission High School - thoughts on SF's small schools movement

Waiting for a meeting with our county community school and continuation high school teachers from throughout the San Francisco Unified School District I am sitting in the cafe across from the historic Dolores Park and Mission HS blogging through the cafe's wi-fi network.
Mission High is one of our schools which faces devastation from the CA High School Exit Exam, the federal NCLB policies and a history of neglect and institutionalized racism/classism from our district.
The high school is also undergoing 'restructuring' through our district's small schools initiative. The reform effort was started up by a grassroots movement of teachers from Balboa High School, parents and neighborhood organizers and activists from the SouthEast neighborhoods of our City who have been fighting for equity and better schools for low income communities of color, like the Mission District.
School Board Commissioner Mark Sanchez worked with the movement and the San Francisco Organizing Project/PICO to author the first board policy in support of the small schools movement. After visiting with Sanchez the Julia Richmond small school complex in NYC and other small schools in Oakland, I co-authored that resolution which passed our board in early 2002.
Shortly afterwards with some political and financial support from the Gates Foundation's Tom Van Der Ark, the SFUSD began the SSRI [Secondary School Redesign Initiative] or our 'small schools' initiative. Since that time SFUSD and communities have nurtured a number of small schools in SF - June Jordan School for Equity [formerly Small School for Equity], AIM High, Y-TEC, etc.
For some history on the small schools movement in SF - see Asian Week's coverage -
small schools movement in sf
SF's progressive 3 year old high school June Jordan School for Equity is one of the victories of the small schools movement -
info on june jordan school for equity
RE Mission HS's redesign - for more context see Kathy Emery's writing on the history or "tragedy" of Mission High in SF Unified. Chapter 8
Emery on Mission HS history
Lastly, for an excellent critique of the small schools reforms around the US and big business and corporate foundation driven small school reform efforts see Rethinking Schools' Summer 2005 Issue - Is Small Beautiful? The Promise and Problems of Small School Reform - Rethinking Schools, Vol. 19, No. 4 - rethinking schools' small schools resources.

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