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High school students take a seat in campus classrooms

August 12, 2003

Photo of three high school students Later this month nearly 100 freshman 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. 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 and the students and teachers are simply using space on the University campus. Over time as enrollment grows there are plans to involve SFSU students and faculty members with curriculum development and teaching.

"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 and Kate Goka. The two 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.

Students applied and were chosen for the Small Schools for Equity by district officials. All will study high school level math, science, English, humanities, world language, art and Japanese. No college courses will be offered.

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

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

The school district and the University have a strong working relationship because many teacher credentialing students earn their teaching experience in local classrooms but this is the first time high school students will be on the SFSU campus for classes. The practice is common in New York City, where Hunter, Brooklyn and Lehman colleges host high school students and other institutions across the country are exploring the idea.

Nathan Avani, chair of the Secondary Education Department, previously worked at Lehman College and has experience with small schools. He expects new collaborations between faculty members and the high school teachers.

Classes for the soon-to-be high school students will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be held on the third floor 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.

Perea credits Safir and Goka for their determination to fight 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 seven Small Schools teachers are alums. "To be able to help in that risk-taking and serve as an incubator here is just wonderful."

-- Christina Holmes


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Last modified August 12, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs