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Study questions the staying power of OUSD reforms

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, September 27th, 2007 at 1:17 pm in Uncategorized.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, a policy and advocacy group, released an eerily timed study today about Oakland school reform. It reads more like a news article than a study, and it quotes Randy Ward and Ben Chavis, among others.

I found a quote from the news release particularly timely, given the events of the last two weeks:

“Without question, the Oakland school district has made some dramatic improvements in recent years,” said Jeanne Allen, CER president and leading authority on school reform.

“But those improvements have been dependent on people, not the substantive, statutory reforms that can outlive personnel changes. Even with the best people in place, long-term gains cannot occur unless districts make permanent changes that exist long after a superintendent is gone.”

Since many of you know the district far better than me, or the author of this report, I’d like to know what you think: How deep have the reforms gone, and will they persist 10 years from now?

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  • Caroline

    I’m not an Oakland insider so I don’t know enough to have an opinion on this report.

    Overall, though, I have to point out that a paper from the Center for Education Reform cannot be treated like some kind of unbiased academic research. It’s advocacy, pure and simple (CER is pretty open about that). That is true of work that comes out of the Hoover Institution and the other “think tanks” — those are not academic studies; they’re advocacy papers. It’s really a mistake for the press not to make this distinction! It misleads the public.

  • Katy Murphy

    I identified CER as a policy and advocacy group. I described it as a study and a report, which it is. Knowing that it is from an advocacy group, people can read it and determine its credibility for themselves.

  • Caroline

    I got kind of fervent about this after I learned that my sister-in-law, an M.D. who is a researcher for RAND, thought the Hoover Institution was an equivalent to RAND, an unbiased research organization. Any disclaimers in the press had not registered to her. Similarly, CER’s exclusive purpose is to boost charter schools, pure and simple. Anything its “study” learned about Oakland schools would be reshaped as needed to achieve that.

  • Alice

    This report shared nothing important as to the real crdibility of the reforms. The board room was packed with supporter of the reforms, which was very strange, the board was only listeming to a report. The report did not focus on the relevant questions; Are the Reforms really working, Are the Reforms sustainable, financially, and In the Middle and High Schools is there any academic rigor? If anyone chooses to look at the CST Test Scores, especially for the high school, they are not producing stuents proficient or advanced, which translats to grade level. There are serious questions which should be addressed. When 90% of the students are scoring Basic, Below Basic, and Far Below Basic, it makes you think what type of students we are graduating. Are they really college ready? And how many of the reformed high schools offer a full compliment to the UC Berkeley required A-G Required courses?

  • Skyline Teacher

    First of all, Caroline’s point is completely valid: You need to name the point of view of the advocacy group, not just tell us it has one.

    As for reforms, probably none of us has our hands on enough parts of the elephant to know. From what I see here, though, things are a MESS.

    Skyline has a new principal who is completely untrained and inexperienced. The counselors were badly understaffed coming into the year and COMPLETELY botched the master schedule. Classes are still be created to deal with significant overages (that the district failed to predict) in WEEK 6. For four weeks, many teachers had more than 50+ kids in a classroom. Some teachers are giving ALL there students “P” grades because of the chaos. Many kids have been shuffled 3 or 4 times, schedule-wise, in one marking period. When teachers complained to the union, the District official who visited said “Well, this isn’t much worse than last year.” If this was a functional school district, such chaos would be news — but it is just another day in Oakland.

  • Skyline Teacher

    I should clarify: The principal at Skyline is smart, well-meaning and probably will be a good principal some day. However, she is training on the job and it is not pretty. None of her VPs have much admin experience either.

  • Katy Murphy

    Actually, I’ve been getting calls about Skyline, and I do consider the reports newsworthy. If you or your colleagues would be interested in talking to me about what’s been going on, give me a call at (510) 208-6424.

    I’m also waiting to hear back from the district administrator who oversees Skyline. I left her a message late last week.

  • Skyline Teacher

    OK, I’ll think about it. I’m not sure what good it would do at this point. We all just want things to to settle down and get through the year.

  • Susan Harman

    Alice, on Oct 3, said “If anyone chooses to look at the CST Test Scores, especially for the high school, they are not producing stuents proficient or advanced, which translats to grade level.” No, it doesn’t. This is the myth that the Bushies have pushed. Grade level, if it means anything, is the 50th percentile, or the middle. “Proficient” is set at around 75%-80%, 30 points higher.