If you really loathe those STAR tests…

image from slavinfpo’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

I often hear Bay Area parents complain about the STAR testing required by the No Child Left Behind Act. In Berkeley, some take it a step further. They simply keep their kids from filling in the bubbles. In fact, so many Berkeley High students skipped the test last year that the school doesn’t have an API score (although maybe they didn’t need parental encouragement to boycott the test).

Parents do have the right to excuse their children from all or some of the STAR tests (Ed Code 60615). That puts schools and districts in a tough spot, though, since the federal law requires them to test 95 percent of their kids. Continue Reading


Oakland’s theft problem: Can it be stopped?

computerlab2.jpgMatthew Green, a former journalism teacher at Fremont Federation’s Media High School, wrote a compelling story for the East Bay Express about the continual theft of computers and other equipment from Oakland’s public schools.

Daniel Hurst, principal of Fremont’s College Prep & Architecture Academy, told Green that the school loses $50,000 a year, easily, because of break-ins. Hurst was quoted as saying that the phenomenon was “the cost of doing school in this environment.”

Last summer, after someone swiped 18 brand new Macintosh computers from a locked case on the McClymonds campus, Tribune reporter Jennifer Scholtes did a clip search and found quite a few theft reports.

At the time, then-OUSD spokesman Continue Reading


Compost! Everybody’s doing it…

schoollunch.jpgActually, I’m not sure many schools are even aware that Waste Management will collect specially sorted organic (a.k.a. “green”) waste from their lunchrooms.

Well they can now, and they do.

Peralta Elementary, always a leader in gardens and all things green, has reduced its landfill-bound trash this year by 75 percent, according to Christopher Waters, an active parent.

Today, Glenview Elementary School kids began sorting the remains of their lunches between the trash, recycling and compost bins for its brand new composting program. Continue Reading


For PTAs, another duty: neighborhood surveys

Moms and dads in Oakland Unified have far too much leisure time on their hands. Sure, they organize clam bakes, Bingo Nites and bake sales. Some even spearhead environmental initiatives and volunteer in classrooms. But do they actually go door to door to collect demographic data?

Oh. I guess they do that, too.


At 6 p.m. tonight, district officials meet with Redwood Heights Elementary School parents to discuss enrollment projections.

District representatives are also expected to propose a survey of neighborhood children — much like the one Hillcrest School’s long-range planning committee did last year.

The PTA at Montclair Elementary School Continue Reading


OPD uses Taser during high school protest

A police officer assigned to the McClymonds high school campus shocked a BEST student with a Taser last week during a small student walkout over a fired after-school coordinator.

file photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

LaShun Frieson, 16, said two School Resource Officers were trying, unsuccessfully, to wrestle him to the ground and cuff him, prompting one of them to tase him multiple times. The reason for his arrest? Stepping between the police and his friend, 100-pound Arwa Omar, when an officer went to handcuff her.

The reason for Omar’s near-arrest? Continue Reading


Oakland: the “Broadway of teaching?”

I didn’t expect to find a zinger in a promotional flyer for a substitute teacher hiring fair, but there it was, at the end.

“Why would someone be a substitute teacher for Oakland Unified School District?

“You just can’t get this type of experience anywhere else.  Oakland Unified is like the ‘Broadway’ of teaching: if you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere!”

image from yudis_asnar’s profile at flickr.com/creativecommons

So maybe it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Oakland public schools. But who knows? Maybe the blunt humor will draw top candidates. As long as they don’t leave for “anywhere” as soon as they “make it” in Oakland…

Anyway, the fair is tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon at the central office. Here is the info, straight from the flyer: Continue Reading


Join tonight’s Achievement Gap discussion

Sorry, I should have posted this earlier. For all of you spontaneous folks, Mills College is holding a free event at 6:30 p.m. tonight to talk about the Achievement Gap — whether it can be eliminated, and how. The discussion will air soon on KQED and KAWL, if you can’t make it in person.

Here are the details, from the release:


Oakland, CA—February 6, 2008. Mills College will host a community conversation on “Public Education and the Achievement Gap” on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 6:30 pm at Lisser Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA. The event is free and open to the public.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, African American and Latino students’ reading and mathematics skills at the end of high school are roughly Continue Reading


Be the Change You Wish to See

jdutton2.jpgWalking through the halls of Skyline High School is a true experience during an election year. Interspersed with the usual talk about clothes, boyfriends, and homework (that can be expected of any typical high school) is buzz about Obama winning another state, and whether Hillary can make a “comeback.”

It has been seen in recent elections that the youth are not a demographic to be overlooked. Just noticing my fellow students and observing their level of awareness is enough to make me truly believe this. Many high schoolers will turn eighteen before November, and some are eligible voters already. In fact I had several classmates vote in the California Primary and many more who plan to vote in the General Election. Even my sister, who will not be living in the United States during the election plans on sending in an absentee ballot.

So my question is this, what is it about the 2008 Presidential Election that is causing such a spark in interest? Continue Reading


Tracing the “mystery meat” back to the farm


Wednesday update: The school district has verified that none of its 15 beef products come from Westland Meat Co.


Amid the frenzy over the largest beef recall in the nation’s history, Oakland school district officials appear calm and collected. After all, the district moved to stop serving beef – temporarily – nearly three weeks ago after allegations of animal abuse arose about Westland Meat Co., and no health problems have been reported.

Troy Flint, the district’s spokesman, says Oakland is in a better position than many other school districts. Years ago, it was part of a USDA pilot program that gave lunch ladies cash to buy meat from vendors, rather than relying on the government’s commodity supply that contained much of the now-recalled meat.

(Of the 143 million pounds of recalled meat, about 37 million went to school lunches and other public food programs.)

Here’s the catch: Continue Reading


Education: Then and Now

irodriguez2.jpgAbout every month or so in my U.S. History class we have class discussions, or what we call “open forum” about the book we are reading. The book is called “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, and we basically spend the entire class period voicing our opinions about the recent chapter we read; whether or not we agree with Howard Zinn’s thoughts on certain aspects of our history.

A couple of days ago we had one such discussion. Someone brought up a very interesting assertion that Zinn makes, and it made me think about school. About why we go to school and why school was created. Now I’m warning you, at the end of this blog you might think me a skeptic, but I ‘m simply just throwing some questions out there. Continue Reading