No more room on the hill

I posted a blog entry in December titled “Are Oakland’s `hills’ schools becoming more exclusive?” It was a rhetorical question, but I can now answer it definitively: Yes.

school2.jpgHere’s the back story: Back in December, a stream of Montclair Elementary School parents and others urged the Oakland school district not to expand their school’s local attendance boundaries. The change had been proposed to alleviate crowding at Hillcrest, which — like Montclair — has high test scores and is located in an affluent part of town.

The Montclair parents spoke about the importance of preserving the school’s racial and socioeconomic diversity and warned of overcrowding. (Chabot Elementary parents made a similar plea for the Rockridge school.) They argued that with a larger attendance area, the school would no longer have room for student transfers whose families who couldn’t afford the local real estate.

The latest: Montclair’s boundaries stayed the same — likely, because the parents’ arguments gave board members pause. But it turns out that the school doesn’t have room, anyway, for the children parents spoke of. Even the younger brothers and sisters of Montclair’s current “out-of-neighborhood” students were turned away for the coming fall, not to mention first-born kids who live in the flatlands. Continue Reading


No more fuzzy math: All graduation rates in U.S. to be calculated the same way


When other reporters ask me what Oakland’s graduation rate is, I cringe — and not because it’s so low. It’s because the answer is impossibly wonky.

According to the formula used by the California Department of Education, 61 percent of Oakland’s high school students graduated in 2006. For the Class of 2001, it was reported to be nearly 74 percent. But researchers, using a grade-progression formula called the Cumulative Promotion Index, have consistently put it at below half.

A report released today by Colin Powell’s organization, America’s Promise Alliance, (and conducted by EdWeek’s Editorial Projects in Education Director Christopher Swanson) estimated that a mere 46 percent of Oakland’s Class of 2004 graduated on time with a regular diploma.

Neither statistic is remotely encouraging — don’t get me wrong — but researchers have argued for years that some states have hid their dropout problems with fuzzy math and spotty data reporting.

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced Continue Reading