San Francisco State University -- August 29, 2003

High School Students Take a Seat in San Francisco State University Classrooms

Next week nearly 100 freshmen will embark on their high school careers by attending classes at San Francisco State University, joining a national trend that finds more young teens on college campuses.

Small Schools for Equity is an ambitious and unique partnership between San Francisco Unified School District and the University that allows students and teachers to use classrooms in Burk Hall for their studies and work in collaboration with faculty from the College of Education. About 100 students from all neighborhoods of the city and their seven teachers kick off the academic year on Aug. 25.

The school is supported, managed and funded by SFUSD. Students and faculty from the University's Secondary Education Department will work closely with the Small Schools for Equity teachers and administrators on curriculum design, professional development and research.

"The University began as a teaching training institution more than 100 years ago and now having this high school on our campus is ideal," said Jake Perea, dean of the College of Education and a supporter of the small school concept.

Small Schools for Equity was founded by a group of Balboa High School teachers and parents led by Shane Safir, Kate Goka and Matt Alexander. The teachers envision a close-knit school with about 25 students in a class to foster more individualized attention and prevent anyone from "falling through the cracks," Shafir explains.

After years of planning and approval from the SFUSD school board, teachers are ready to welcome their new students.

"This is a pioneering decision on the University's part," said Safir. "It shows you that when you step back from fear you can do so much. We will be doing some amazing things here."

While the school district and the University have a strong working relationship as many teacher credentialing students earn their teaching experience in local classrooms, this is the first time high school students will be on the University campus for classes working closely with SFSU faculty and student. It's a common practice in New York City at Hunter, Brooklyn and Lehman colleges and other institutions across the country are exploring the idea.

Nathan Avani, chair of the Secondary Education Department, previously worked at Lehman College in New York and was instrumental in planning the School for Community Development and Learning, a small high school of about 120 students that opens next month at Lehman.

"This is cutting edge education," said Avani, who joined the University in 2002. "Having a high school on a college campus is something education faculty dream about."

Classes for the soon-to-be high school students will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and will be held on the third floor and basement level of Burk Hall in the exact classrooms occupied later in the day by SFSU teacher credentialing students. During the morning and early afternoon hours, SFSU students are teaching at schools across the Bay Area.

All students - who applied and were chosen for Small Schools by district officials -- will study high school level math, science, English, U.S. history, Japanese, Spanish and art. No college courses will be offered but by the time students are juniors they can concurrently enroll in SFSU courses.

Perea credits the Small Schools teachers for their determination in fighting for a school that focuses on small classes and personalized attention.

"There is such great excitement to see young people who are activists take the next step in educating children," he said, adding that two of the Small Schools teachers are alums. "To be able to help in that risk taking and serve as an incubator here is just wonderful."

Media Contact: Christina Holmes, (415) 405-3803; (415) 338-1665; cholmes@sfsu.edu


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