San Francisco Community School
After-school and summer programs, on-site Boys and Girls Clubs, diversity programs, a parent-initiated vegetable garden—these are just a few of the elements behind San Francisco Community School’s success, including increased student achievement. In 2009, fourth- and seventh-graders exceeded state averages in both English language arts and math. Serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade, this alternative school was named one of eight exemplary schools in its district, prompting Stanford University to research and profile the school’s best practices. While the school community and education observers await this report, students continue to benefit from the school’s unique structure. A Head Teacher, who is selected for a three-year term, runs the school. Teachers focus on interdisciplinary project-oriented education by offering two nine-week sessions per year dedicated to project classes. Also, elementary students learn in combined-grade classrooms with small, grade-specific math classes.
Meanwhile, in middle school, students are assigned the same adviser for three years. Students meet with their advisory group daily and receive intensive academic advising from their adviser weekly. At the end of elementary school, and again at the end of middle school, students in fifth and eighth grades have ample opportunity to demonstrate mastery and advance in grade levels, thanks to portfolios they present to a panel of teachers, family and community members.
Environmental and health education are also hallmarks of the school. Students participate in annual camping trips and experience hands-on learning in a sand-and-water play area, a greenhouse and a large organic garden, all on school grounds. Additional school supports include a free after-school academic and enrichment program that helps the school’s students, many of whom are from low-income families, reach their potential.
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