February 11, 2000

Special Television Program February 15 by City Schools

A special call-in television program will be held Tuesday, February 15, on the Blueprint for Student Success in a Standards-Based System in San Diego City Schools, a proposal to change promotion and retention policies and instruction in the district. The program will be hosted by Superintendent of Public Education Alan Bersin, with several teachers, principals, parents and students as guests. The public is encouraged to telephone with questions during the live broadcast, which will begin at 7 p.m. on San Diego's Learning Channel, Cox Cable 23, and Time-Warner Cable 17.

The proposal, to be considered by the Board of Education on March 7, addresses the problem of social promotion, where as many as 40% of district students at certain grade levels are promoted to the next grade even if they do not read, or compute math, at the level required for success in that grade. The plan would be a comprehensive effort to offer continuous help at every grade for all students. The program will cover ideas on how the plan would be put into classrooms, step-by-step, depending on what prudently should be done first, and on the additional financial resources that may be necessary.

The plan would put greater emphasis on prevention by continuing to strengthen teaching of all subjects, especially literacy and mathematics. The district already has three hours of literacy-based teaching in all elementary schools, and it is expanding the teaching time in secondary schools. Next year it will begin stronger math-based teaching. The district now offers teachers the chance to improve their skills with paid summer classes, and it is putting peer coaches in all schools so that an expert teacher can help colleagues.

The plan would offer early intervention for students who struggle despite the expanded effort at getting them the skills the first time around. Such intervention could include: a summer academy for kindergarten students to better prepare them for first grade; special programs for parents so they can help their children; special instruction during summer school and holiday periods between school terms; a longer school day, with instruction either before or after the regular day; and additional literacy and math classes for struggling students.

When a student would need to be held back despite prevention and intervention efforts, the plan proposes that retention be done in an early level at each school level: grade 1 in elementary school; grade 6 at middle schools; grade 7 at junior high; and grade 9 at high school. By choosing those grades, the district would give students more chances earlier to raise themselves up to standards. The plan would give additional materials and training to teachers of these students so that the instruction can target the specific areas where the students fall short. There would be an 11-month school year for these students, as well as summer school, smaller class sizes, and special opportunities for parents to be involved.

The plan can be read on the school district web site: www.sandi.net and clicking on "preliminary plan on social promotion."

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