Seeking advice

Hello everyone! While I may not be keeping my mind stimulated by taking summer classes such as some of the other bloggers, I have been doing a lot of traveling, which has stimulated my mind in a completely different way. Traveling really makes one aware of all the endless possibilities the world holds, and during my trip I did a lot of contemplating about my plans for the future, more specifically next year. This is where I could use your advice.

On Monday I returned from a three week long trip to Germany and Spain. I flew over alone and visited family (I am half Spanish). While there, my Spanish family proposed that I spend a year in Spain, in between high school and college. My first thought on this was “No way, I’m going to college directly after high school.” This of course has always been my plan, but my Spanish family thinks it is important that I spend a year in Spain to learn the language (I do not speak fluent Spanish), and the culture. Their proposal was that I live with family or on my own, while taking some courses at the local university. Continue Reading


Why he quit OUSD, after 17 years

Jim Farwell, a school psychologist, wrote this essay about his decision to leave the Oakland school district.

In the 17 years that I served as a school psychologist in Oakland’s special education program, I’ve encountered a number of disturbing themes.

I will never forget a staff meeting in which it was announced that children in the middle and high schools who are mandated to receive speech and language services would no longer receive services through the school district. Instead, the parents, many of whom were living under the poverty level, would be given a list of local agencies. The parents would have to pay the $100 fee per visit up front and would be reimbursed at a later time.

How can many parents afford to pay $100 to $200 a week for their child to receive speech and language services?

Then there is the way that Oakland mistreats its teachers. New staff is hired fresh out of college. They are given a six-week “orientation” the summer before the school year begins. These sincere, motivated young people are then placed in special education classes as teachers. They know nothing about class room management, curriculum, Continue Reading


Mining for home-grown teaching talent

Frank Knight, a teacher and basketball coach at East Oakland’s Fremont Federation of Small Schools, wrote this piece about the Oakland school district’s efforts to recruit local teachers. -Katy

As an Oakland public school teacher, the topic of finding home-grown teachers really strikes a nerve with me. I am an alumni of Oakland Public Schools. I went to Fremont High School and graduated with the Class of 1995. Now, Fremont is where I now teach AP Government/Economics and World History.

I have been teaching for seven years and find it absolutely rewarding and could not see myself doing anything else (outside of the education field).

My friends who graduated from Oakland’s public schools went into the job force thinking that teaching was not financially sustainable. That they would love to work with kids and have an impact on generations to come, but find it impossible to live a decent lifestyle being a teacher. I think that assumption is absolutely ridiculous! We all know that the Oakland school district is not at the top in terms of pay, but we have so many other ways of making additional income. Continue Reading


Summer Update: From Skyline to community college

Hi everyone! This summer is passing by so fast. This past Thursday was my last day of summer classes at Diablo Valley College. Even though I was just improving my grades in two courses, this has turned out to be a learning experience.

At the beginning of the summer, I was very excited about attending classes at this community college. About two weeks into classes, though, my thoughts changed. I was very disappointed in myself for not doing as well as I could have in my high school courses and almost thought of myself as a failure since I could not do many of the other amazing things that some other classmates are doing this summer due to summer school. Surrounded by other students seizing the same opportunity to take summer courses, I became less focused on summer and more focused on doing the very best in my class and became excited about school again. Still, I stuck it out, turned in my chem labs on time, did all of the math homework, and I ended up with solid Bs in both courses!

Taking the summer courses at DVC has changed me because it has made me more responsible. Continue Reading


On vacation

Hopefully next week will be as slow of a news week as this one was, because I won’t be here to write about it.

I’m taking a summer vacation before it’s too late. But, as Jesse mentioned, a few guest bloggers are lined up to keep the discussions going in my place.

I’ll be back Aug. 4, but I’m sure I’ll be checking in with you while I’m gone. Take care, and be good!

image from Because Of’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons


Summer update from a Skyline student

Hello again everyone!

Katy will be gone for a little bit, so I hope to keep you entertained with a little update about my summer…

I’ve been working quite a lot at the Grand Kosher Bakery on Grand Avenue in Oakland (about a block down from the theatre). It’s really fun but constant moving around so my feet start to get really sore. But I do get to eat delicious food all day and meet interesting people. Plus, having regular paychecks is just great.

As for schoolwork, my summer is not lacking in the slightest. I have been working on summer assignments for both my AP French Language class as well as my AP English Literature class which I will be starting in the fall. And to top it all off I am taking a physics class at Laney Community College Monday through Thursday at, get this, 8 a.m.

So far, summer is not as relaxing as it should be. Continue Reading


Girls are just as good as boys in math, study finds

Girls tackle basic and complex mathematical problems as well as boys do, a departure from the findings of a 1990 study that found significant gender differences, a UC Berkeley professor and her research team from the University of Wisconsin concluded.

Armed with a National Science Foundation grant, the team crunched the standardized test scores of 7 million students to see how the boys’ and girls’ averages measured up. They also compared the percentages of boys and girls who scored at the high end of the spectrum to see if there were more boys than girls at the top. There weren’t.

The reason? Well, it’s not earth-shattering. Researchers think it’s because girls are finally taking the same number of advanced math courses as boys.

Notably, the researchers had to look beyond the standardized tests required by NCLB to determine how well children of each gender solved complex problems. They combed 10 state exams for examples of highly challenging, real-world math — and found zilch, according to this news release: Continue Reading


Move over, Freud. Rap therapy has come to town.

I was scanning through You Tube this afternoon and came across a music video made by a group of Oakland kids, titled, “My Life.” It was a project of Beats, Rhymes and Life, which describes its work as a “strengths-based, teen-friendly, culturally sensitive approach to social work with at-risk teens.”

Beats, Rhymes and Life uses rap therapy to reach teens who need help, but who are put off by the idea of traditional forms of counseling. Check it out for yourself, if you have six minutes:



Oakland looks for teachers in its own backyard

In recent years, some 40 percent of Oakland’s new teaching hires have come from across the country through programs such as Teach for America and Oakland Teaching Fellows. 

Now, to create a more stable teaching force, the school district is trying to recruit more home-grown talent. 

Those interested in teaching in Oakland’s public schools can learn more at a Monday night recruitment and informational event, “Welcome to Teaching.” It’s from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the “Broadway of teaching” slogan does not appear on this recruitment flyer.

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


State champion sluggers scraping together money for regional tournament

Last week, we ran a story about the “summer slide,” the erosion of vocabulary and other academic skills during long breaks from school. Researchers say it especially affects kids don’t have access to summer schools, camps or other structured activities during the summer.

“Summer is a time when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” said Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “We think of summer as this time for camp and recreation and all kinds of fun programs, but it’s a wasteland for many low-income children. There’s no other time of year where inequality is greater then the summer, and it has a huge impact on the achievement gap.”

The Oakland Cal Ripken-Babe Ruth Baseball League fills that void for dozens of Oakland kids each summer. And last week, the 9-year-old team won the state tournament and advanced to the Pacific Southwest competition in Panguitch, Utah. The coaches said they just learned, however, that the team would have to come up with the money for the trip. Continue Reading