Schwarzenegger presents: your new school shopping guide

Our governor knows just what parents need: More school stats!

Schwarzenegger’s office has announced the launch of a new Web site, California School Finder, that will allow school shoppers to scope out the educational institutions in a particular area. It lets you compare course offerings, student demographics and other information — complete with aerial views of the campuses.

If you want to know if the Oakland School for the Arts teaches advanced French, for example, or what Advanced Placement courses your local high school offers, you’re in luck. (The one-year dropout data on the site, however, did not appear to be updated with last week’s release.)

This is not to be confused with Continue Reading


Oakland teens to be schooled in human rights

Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Rigoberta Menchu, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Winston Churchill will be cast in stone, side by side, in a new bronze sculpture, “Remember Them,” to be installed in downtown Oakland. 

And, as soon as it’s completed, every Oakland high school student will study the “lives and lessons” of  these human rights leaders in a mandatory curriculum designed by the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Mario Chiodo, an Oakland artist, chose 25 people to feature in the installment. He is donating his time for the Oakland Chamber of Commerce Foundation project and some art students will have a chance to work with him on the piece, according to the “Remember Them” Web site.

Tomorrow, the Oakland Rotary is donating $40,000 to the educational aspect.  

Which major historical figures are typically studied in Oakland schools? Continue Reading


New dropout rates are more accurate, but not pretty

You’ve heard me gripe about all of the dropout rate calculations and projections for Oakland’s public schools. Well, the state department of education has finally broken out its newfangled student tracking system and released some (supposedly) accurate, estimate-free dropout data for the 2006-07 school year!

Two years ago, California assigned every public school student a unique state ID number in order to track their progress, regardless of where in the state they moved. If a student vanishes from Oakland High School, for example, and turns up in Los Angeles Unified a month later, that student will no longer be counted as a dropout.

While admittedly exciting on a wonky, statistical level — oh, the information! — the state’s preliminary data present a very sobering picture. If it’s as accurate as they say, it means that nearly 11 percent of Oakland’s high school kids quit school during the 2006-07 year alone. Continue Reading


Politicians to scrutinize state takeovers of schools

Tomorrow in Sacramento — the week after the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury released an unflattering report on the subject — legislators will hear all about state takeovers in Oakland and elsewhere in California.

A new Assembly committee recently formed to take a look at the school financial takeovers system. They’ll probably get no shortage of suggestions on improvements.

School board member David Kakishiba is expected to be there, along with other school board members, policy analysts, superintendents, and union representatives. I won’t be able to make it to Sacramento tomorrow. But if you go, you should consider writing a synopsis for The Education Report!

Read all about the hearing, straight from Assemblyman Sandre Swanson’s office: Continue Reading


Report: Shortage of Algebra I teachers is missing from the equation

Even without the de facto eighth-grade Algebra I mandate, middle schools across the state have struggled to find enough teachers with a solid foundation in the subject. So what’s going to happen now, with the rapid expansion of middle school algebra?

The Santa Cruz-based Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning just published a brief on the subject, titled “California’s Approach to Math Instruction Still Doesn’t Add Up.”

Here’s an excerpt:

The number of middle school students enrolled in Algebra I classes in which the teacher is either underprepared or assigned “out-of-field” rose from 73,000 in 2004 to more than 74,000 in 2007. In California, about 32% of the workforce assigned to teach Algebra I in middle school does not have a subject matter credential in mathematics and may lack the background and preparation necessary to effectively teach the subject.

Read the four-page brief here.

Educators and policy-makers seem to agree that Algebra I is a tricky subject to teach and learn. So how are kids supposed to learn it from someone with a layman’s understanding of the material? Continue Reading


Moore steps up to head the OAL

Michael Moore Sr. told me this morning that he didn’t know whether the 89-year-old Oakland Athletic League would have fizzled if it continued without a full-time commissioner. But, he said, “I didn’t want to leave it to chance.”

A year after OAL’s last commissioner retired, Roberta Mayor, Oakland’s new interim superintendent, announced this morning that she had named Moore, a district administrator, to the post.

Jerry Luzar, the previous commissioner, stepped down in 2007 after 12 years. The Oakland league — which has its own high school section, the smallest in the state — struggled last year without someone in charge. Many worried that the Oakland Section, and eventually the league, itself, would dissolve.

In comes Moore, a 28-year district employee and a 1975 graduate of Oakland High School. Continue Reading


The Algebra I War continues

Each side of the Algebra I duel — Superintendent Jack O’Connell and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — sent out an e-mail blast today with quotes bolstering their respective positions.

Schwarzenegger’s office titled its blast “What They’re Saying… About the Governor’s Support for Algebra I in 8th grade.”

A few hours later, O’Connell’s camp sent its own press release headlined, “What Educators Are Saying…”


Here’s what Schwarzegger’s supporters had to say about the governor’s courageous leadership:

EdVoice Board Co-Chair Eli Broad: “Governor Was Willing To Take The Bold Step On The Path Less Traveled.”

California Business For Education Excellence: Governor Shows “Bold Leadership.” Continue Reading


Math alert! All eighth-graders to take algebra test

The California Board of Education just voted 8-1 to scrap the eighth-grade general math test altogether and require all students to take the Algebra I STAR exam — likely, within the next three years.

It appears the decision may have been influenced by a last-minute appeal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to do so.

Here’s the background: The eighth-grade general math test was deemed out of compliance by the feds, because it only tested sixth and seventh grade standards. In response, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell proposed creating a new general math exam for eighth-graders who take pre-algebra, one which would include some algebra concepts. The state board rejected that proposal.

A teacher’s perspective: I just talked with Juliana Jones, a former Montera Middle School algebra teacher (yes, after seven years in Oakland, she’s leaving for Berkeley Unified) and last year’s Alameda County Teacher of the Year. Jones said she understands the push to expose kids to algebra earlier, but that it’s not as simple as eliminating a test, or requiring schools to enroll all children in algebra by eighth grade.

Because algebra is considered by many to be the “gatekeeper” for academic success, Jones said, some policy-makers believe that students should simply take the course earlier. They figure that even if some students fail, they can take the course again as ninth-graders, she said.

But Jones said there are unintended consequences to repeating the same material, year after year.

“They take it in eighth grade, they take it in ninth grade, they take it in tenth grade — Algebra I, Algebra I, Algebra I,” Jones said. Continue Reading


Arnold wants to pump up eighth-grade math tests

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks California’s general math tests are too weak for the state’s eighth-graders.

Today, the state board of education is expected to approve a change in the eighth-grade general math tests, which, until now, have measured sixth- and seventh-grade skills. But Schwarzenegger wants the state board to drop the general math exam altogether and require all eighth-graders to take the Algebra 1 exam instead.

In 2007, about half of Oakland’s eighth-grade students took the Algebra I STAR test, slightly above the statewide average. About 36 percent took the General Math exam. Six percent took geometry (Not sure about the other 6 percent).

In a letter dated yesterday, Schwarzenegger writes: Continue Reading


School principals: Who’s in, who’s out

Unless someone ups and leaves next week — which wouldn’t be unheard of — Oakland will have 16 new principals in the fall. I got the list this afternoon, which starts with the new hires approved by the school board late last month.

Reyna Diaz – Global Family and Jefferson (5th grade)
Carin Geathers – Burckhalter Elementary
Karen Haynes – Lafayette Elementary
Pia Jara – Lazear Elementary
Stephen Redmond – Crocker Highlands Elementary
Susan Ryan – CBIT High School (Castlemont)
Betsye Steele – Paul Robeson High School (Fremont)
Adam Taylor – Brookfield Elementary
Karen Todd – BEST High School (McClymonds)

Tilden Elementary
Skyline High School
Piedmont Avenue Elementary Continue Reading