Promoting African American Postsecondary Success

African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI)


Spark* SF Public Schools envisions a school system where not just some students but all students are setup for success once they graduate to begin the next phase of their lives. So, with African American students persistently performing below their peers in postsecondary attainment, closing the racial achievement and opportunity gap has been identified as the most pressing challenge facing the district. Spark* SF Public Schools is helping to tackle this challenge head on by supporting strategic approaches and targeted programs to increase African American student achievement through high school. 

NEED & CURRENT REALITY: Despite an overall increase in high school graduation and college-going rates, students of color experience lower rates of postsecondary attainment than their peers. Only 77% of African American students in SFUSD graduate from high school, only 38% graduate with eligibility for a California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC) school, and only 16% obtain a post-secondary degree within five years of graduating. 

To disrupt these unfavorable outcomes for African American students, SFUSD established the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI) in 2013. Through its programming, AAALI is committed to raising expectations and belief in African American student achievement, empowering African American students and their families, coordinating comprehensive wraparound supports for African American students, and ensuring African American students receive culturally responsive, rigorous instruction.

Through these efforts, SFUSD has identified practices and strategies that have led to academic success for African American students, including increased high school graduation rates and reduced suspension rates. But there is much more work to do to improve the educational, career, and life outcomes of our most underserved students.

Students looking at human anatomy model

VISION: By 2025, we aim to significantly increase African American student achievement by ensuring that students have access to high-quality educational experiences that prepare them for postsecondary success. Our focus will be on the following strategies: 

  1. Increase African American student access to rigorous STEM learning opportunities - The need for STEM professionals is among the nation’s fastest-growing workforce demands. However, students of color, particularly African American students, are grossly underrepresented in these fields. AAALI programs aim to prepare students for STEM careers through summer math instruction, career exposure, and workplace readiness skills.

  2. Expand capacity-building for schools to ensure students are on-track to graduate - Our goal is to ensure every single African American high school student is on-track to graduate from high school by providing ongoing case management and tiered supports ranging from transcript reviews and four-year planning to tutoring and family check-ins. 

  3. Expand college access and post-secondary persistence - To ensure our students are setup for the future, we are prioritizing college and career access, as well as postsecondary persistence through college affordability counseling, postsecondary data collection, college coaching, career pathway programs, and Advanced Placement enrollment. 

  4. Expand the number of culturally responsive courses in our schools - A study by Stanford University showed that SFUSD’s ethnic studies courses boosted students’ GPA and attendance in significant ways. By expanding ethnic students across grade levels, we aim to increase students’ sense of belonging and connectedness while also improving student achievement. 

Spark* SF Public Schools is seeking $2 million in private philanthropic investments over three years. It will truly take a village, from community organizations, city agencies, and businesses, to teachers, parents, and families, to create the future we imagine for our students - a future in which all students have equal access to opportunity, and are appreciated for their unique talents and contributions. 

Help us build a future where everyone thrives by investing in the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative today.


  • 90% of African American students will graduate in 4 years and matriculate to a four-year college or university (currently 77%)

  • 50% of African American  students will graduate with CSU or UC eligibility (currently 38%)

  • 10% increase in the number of African American students that receive a passing grade (A, B, or C) in any A-G course subject

  • Increase African American student enrollment in Advanced Placement courses (especially in STEM)