Learning while black: The fight for equity in San Francisco schools | KALW

Learning while black: The fight for equity in San Francisco schools

Bret Harte Elementary School Principal Jeremy Hilinski escorts a student back to class after spending a little one-on-one time with her.
Credit Lee Romney / KALW

When the head of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP demanded the city declare a “state of emergency” to tackle low academic test results for African American students, he turned the blame on the grown-ups. “It’s not that the children are failing,” the Rev. Amos Brown told school board trustees. “I’m using the plural pronoun ‘we.’ We are failing.” The so-called equity gap has persisted for decades: As a group, African-American students in San Francisco and across the country struggle in public school, often posting the lowest test scores and graduation rates, and the highest rates of suspension and chronic absenteeism.

KALW Education Reporter Lee Romney set out to explore the systemic inequities that have hampered African American students in this changing city. Her ongoing series also showcases the resilience and power of black youth and their families, and the efforts of educators and community advocates to help them thrive.

The series has received support from the Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being, a program of the University of Southern California Center for Health Journalism. Do you have a story idea to share? Lee wants to hear it. Reach her at lee@kalw.org.

Joe R. Goyos / Support for Families of Children with Disabilities

Community members came together on Thursday, March 21, for a forum and roundtable discussion of what it takes to navigate San Francisco Unified School District’s Special Education system and to develop an action plan to support African American students with learning differences.

San Francisco Unified School District’s African American educators have been honoring the achievements of black students who earn a 3.0 grade point average or above for a quarter of a century. This year’s emcees say the event celebrates an often-ignored narrative of excellence.

Lee Romney / KALW

Some of San Francisco’s African American families have attended public schools in the City for three generations. They share their personal stories as part of the ongoing series, “Learning while black: The fight for equity in San Francisco schools.”

Lee Romney / KALW

This is part of an ongoing series “Learning while black: The fight for equity in San Francisco schools.”

African American students across the country are much more likely than any other student group to be placed in special education, and that’s true at San Francisco Unified too. The district’s troubled history has plenty to teach us about what is and isn’t working for black students with special needs today.