Beats, graphs and linear equations

I just spent almost the entire day at the McClymonds high school campus shadowing Sunshine Parker, one of three students to be featured in an upcoming installment of the Andy Kwok/MyFirst Year project.

I can interview policy experts and administrators all I want, but for me, there is no substitute for spending time, over time, with a group of kids and teachers.

graph.jpgToday in algebra class, for example, I saw how Michael Raines managed to get most of his class (including two kids who showed up late and burst into the room, practically wrestling one another) focused on cracking a logic puzzle and graphing equations — which, I might add, are not especially simple or obviously relevant.

Remember this? y= -2x + 4

To convey the concept of a pattern that repeats itself, over and over, Raines had one kid make a beat with his fists, and Continue Reading


TIME looks at merit pay, and its history

TIME Magazine’s cover story, “How to Make Great Teachers,” explores the issues of academic freedom (see: union proposal) and bonus pay. Although merit pay may be a buzz word in education reform, it’s not a new concept.

The writer looked to the past — something all of us journalists should do much more often — to see how it has worked.

It’s a long piece, so you might want to make a pot of coffee first…


Do military recruiters belong at high schools?

Today at Oakland High, war resister and former Navy sailor Pablo Paredes debated Army recruiter Sgt. Jose Delao about the role of military recruiters in high schools — and the benefits and risks of joining the service.


Some of the questions from the crowd:

– Why do you recruit us young people? “We’re going to die, but for what, you know?”
– Why is it that the military recruiters come to the low-income high schools?
– What are the benefits for veterans (Be specific, please)?

It was an intense hour — and, for the most part, civil. At one point during the question-and-answer session, though, Continue Reading


A short-term fix likely for Peralta

Peralta Elementary School might have room for two kindergarten classes this fall, after all.

Troy Flint, the Oakland school district’s spokesman, tells me the district is trying to get another portable classroom for the Rockridge-area school. If that happens, he said, “no neighborhood residents will be displaced.”

Parent-leaders at the school have pressured the district to come up with a solution to the space crunch after learning last week that there would be room for just one class of 27 kindergarteners. 

In addition to some 30 neighborhood children, about 12 younger siblings Continue Reading


Baaaa … Feeling like an “Open Court sheep”

sboylan2.jpgSiobhan Boylan, a first-year teacher at East Oakland PRIDE, a new school at Webster, writes this week in the Tribune’s My First Year blog that she often feels like a “screeching, nasty, frustrated, rapid-fire Open Court sheep.”

It’s hard to stay positive, but she keeps trying to “swim toward the sun,” she writes.

Read more of her frank, reflective and funny musings about her job — and her role in public education — on the My First Year site. (I’m sure she wouldn’t mind your support, either.)


Enrollment crunch hits Peralta Elementary

Hillcrest isn’t the only school with a serious supply-and-demand problem.


Christopher Waters, an active parent at Peralta Elementary School, says the popular Rockridge-area school (which temporarily moved last year after an arson fire) has just learned it is only allowed to enroll one incoming kindergarten class of 27 students. 

In an e-mail to district administrators and city officials, Waters wrote that this will mean half of new neighborhood families won’t Continue Reading


Three Oakland teachers earn national distinction

Congratulations to Patience Nwadugbo, of Maxwell Park Elementary; Clifford Lee, of Life Academy; and Kathryn Fireman, of ASCEND Elementary.

teachersketch1.jpgThese Oakland teachers have just been awarded National Board Certification after an intensive process of self-evaluation and critique that usually takes one to three years to complete. (We’re talking classroom videotapes, portfolios of student work and assignments and tests measuring the candidates’ knowledge of the subject they teach.)

The Alameda County Teacher of the Year — Juliana Jones, a math teacher at Montera Middle School — is a big proponent of National Board Certification.

In Oakland Unified, 64 teachers have earned the distinction. Has anyone at your school? Check out a searchable database to find out.

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


Fire in the bathroom, exit exam interrupted

Yesterday morning, as Oakland citizens were exercising their right to vote, a couple of teenagers (who were later detained by police) celebrated Super Tuesday by starting a fire in a school bathroom.

The stunt might have caused little damage to the Fremont Federation facility, but it sure didn’t help those who were taking the state high school exit exam at the time. (Note: The photo below doesn’t look anything like the rooms in which Oakland students take the exam.)


An hour-long evacuation interrupted the test — a graduation requirement, which students have six chances to pass. I’ve heard that Continue Reading


Measure G passes by a large margin

Wednesday morning update: The vote is in. Measure G passes with 78.6 percent approval.

Update at 11:38 p.m.: More precincts! Nearly half are in, and 82 percent of voters have approved Measure G. It needs 66.7 percent to pass.

It’s been slow going tonight on the Alameda County Registrar’s Web site. I don’t know how many times I’ve clicked “refresh” and come up with the same numbers.

At least there are numbers now. If the rest of the precincts follow a similar pattern as the first 14 percent that reported, Oakland will have a permanent parcel tax for its public, non-charter schools.

In those 37 precincts, 74 percent of voters approved Measure G.


Need voting advice? Ask one of these fifth-graders


Kareem Weaver, a fifth-grade teacher at Fruitvale Elementary School, was kind enough to respond to my civics lesson query. He was even brave enough to invite me into his classroom on Friday and Monday.

Thanks, Mr. Weaver!

Here is a short video on his class’s Super Tuesday primary election project. And an old fashioned print story.

Oh, and a message on behalf of Room 22: Don’t forget to vote!