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John Lee Evans

San Diego Unified’s vision for educational excellence

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As we enter 2012, the San Diego Unified School District is also focused on the year 2020. How can we afford to do this when we are facing budget shortfalls never seen over the past century? Simply put, we cannot afford to wait.

San Diego Unified’s Vision 2020 for Educational Excellence is an initiative approved by the Board of Education in 2009. It lays out a plan to improve public schools by the time our current fourth-graders graduate from high school in 2020.

First, Vision 2020 changes the way that we measure success. The mandated state and federal tests do not measure much of what we want our students to learn. They can actually lead to a narrowing of the curriculum.

All parents want their children to learn the basics, but that is not enough. Our revised Goals for Student Achievement also measure critical thinking skills and creativity, as well as physical fitness, art, music and other areas. Likewise, simple graduation rates do not tell the whole story if those who do graduate are not ready for college and career.

Rather than a vocational track or a college prep track, we want all of our students to be prepared for either one. The new state-of-the-art auto tech facility at Madison High simultaneously prepares students for immediate employment as an auto mechanic or entry into college to study mechanical engineering.

Second, in San Diego we want to revitalize our neighborhood schools. Schools with strong ties to the neighborhood have more parental participation. While we strongly support school choice, we do want to reverse the trend that has led to half of our students leaving their neighborhoods.

We have an aggressive initiative to develop a quality school in every neighborhood within the next five years. To do this we have defined 12 criteria of a quality neighborhood school, ranging from a broad curriculum to digital literacy to a safe, supportive environment. Each school staff will soon be entering into a discussion about what they need to do to meet these criteria.

Third, we will focus on effective teachers in every classroom, which is the single greatest contributor to academic success after socioeconomic status. Professional learning communities allow teachers at each grade level to take the responsibility for the achievement for all of the students at that school. Teachers will not be isolated in the classroom without peer and supervisor input. We will highlight the best practices in successful classrooms and replicate them throughout the district.

Fourth, we have set up a system of support and accountability. We hired Superintendent Bill Kowba who has demonstrated his stability and commitment to San Diego over the years. The district office provides support for the neighborhood schools, while giving them flexibility and holding them accountable for student achievement.

Vision 2020 is not a “pipe dream.” We are already implementing it. The Class of 2020 received their laptops in the third grade and will benefit from San Diego’s nationally recognized i-21 technology throughout the rest of their school career.