Oakland Tech alums to host all-city reunion

If you wore shoulder pads and parachute pants in high school — or if your bangs made you look three inches taller — you can re-connect with your old friends and enemies Aug. 29 at an all-city reunion for the graduating classes of 1985-1991.

The event, organized by alums from Oakland Tech, will be at Kimball’s Carnival in Jack London Square. (I love the description of the appropriate attire: “grown and sexy.” Does that mean no 80s costumes?) The following night, Aug. 30, is an event for Oakland Tech’s Class of 1988.

More information, from the release I linked to above: Continue Reading


Do special needs kids come second in OUSD?

photo by Alison D. Yin/STAFF

Much ‘ink’ in this forum has been devoted to the question of space: which Oakland children get to attend which public schools.

In June, on the last week of school, district staff told a small group of special education families that the program for blind children with developmental disabilities would be moved out of Montclair Elementary School.

I wrote a story about the controversial relocation, which ran in today’s Tribune. You can read it here.

What do you think about the district’s decision to move the program?


How one Oakland teacher spent her summer

Stephanie Butler, a technology teacher at Elmhurst Community Prep Middle School, recently completed a summer fellowship through Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education. She wrote this piece about her experience. -Katy

Quite often we hear about what’s going wrong in the Oakland school district. This is about something that has been going right for me three years running. It is called IISME (pronounced “is me”). The acronym stands for Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education. The program was established in 1985, and its objective is “to transform teaching and learning through industry-education partnerships.”

Translation: I work in corporate America during the summer with the expectation of applying the skills I’ve learned when I return to the classroom in the fall. It is a paid summer position at the end of which I must submit a report that explains what I intend to take back to the classroom. Once I have completed everything in the plan, whether it is a unit for my students or a professional development for my colleagues, I receive a grant.

My experience with IISME has been both rewarding and uplifting. The rewards have been vast. I am a fourth-year technology teacher, and I have built valuable relationships with veteran teachers from many districts who have been willing to share their expertise. This interaction alone is immeasurable. I believe every veteran teacher has a story to share that can help newer teachers Continue Reading


Need a backpack?

If the musical Sears commercials haven’t propelled you to the mall yet, you might want to hold off on shopping for back-to-school supplies until Sunday — which, of course, is the last day of summer vacation.

The Oakland Natives Give Back Fund organized a Back to School Expo at City Hall from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The event is co-sponsored by the City of Oakland and the Oakland school district.

Organizers will give out backpacks with school supplies to the first 600 families who show up. While you’re there, you might also catch a youth fashion show, a talent search for the city’s best young poets, and … yet unnamed celebrities.

Laura Moran, the school district’s chief services officer, says it’s an effort to encourage families to send their kids to school on Day 1 — and for the whole community to take responsibility for lowering the truancy rate. About 16 percent of middle and high school students Continue Reading


The Oakland Athletic League’s future

Want to weigh in on the future of youth athletics in Oakland? The Special Committee on the Future of the Oakland Athletic League meets at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss such questions as:

“Should the OAL join the North Coast Section of CIF? Should Charter Schools Participate in the OAL? What resources are required to adequately maintain the OAL? What resources are required to adequately compete in the North Coast Section of CIF?” (from agenda)

Michael Moore Sr., the new OAL commissioner, is recommending that the OAL remain in its own section, rather than joining the North Coast Section. He listed the pros and cons of joining the larger section here.

That document also includes some interesting information on the sports teams fielded at each school, the number of student-athletes on each team, and the district funding allocated to them.

I didn’t know there was a bowling team in Oakland!

What’s your opinion about the questions Moore and the special committee have raised?

Tribune file photo


Teens and pills

Prescription painkillers, antidepressants and stimulants are easier for teens to get their hands on than beer, according to an annual back-to-school survey released yesterday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

The researchers surveyed 1,002 teens, ages 12-17, and found a 46 percent increase from last year in the number of kids who say prescription drugs (that are not prescribed to them) are the easiest illicit substance to access.

One-third of the kids surveyed who know a teenage prescription drug abuser said the teen got their drugs from home. The study’s authors call those parents “passive pushers.” Continue Reading


Gold stars

My last test score post was about the big picture in Oakland Unified. But the story wouldn’t be complete without looking at how individual schools are doing. Some are making dramatic improvements in their scores — for the most part, at the elementary school level.

These 21 schools made double-digit percentage point gains this year in the number of kids who tested at “proficient” or better in reading and/or math:

ACORN Woodland Elementary – 19 in math, 23 in reading
Allendale Elementary – 14 in math, 11 in reading
ASCEND Elementary – Continue Reading


Oakland’s scores improve, achievement gap grows

Update: Here is another district spreadsheet that shows the average racial/ethnic results across all grade levels.

OUSD’s test scores improved this year, after flattening out in 2007. But there is still plenty of room for improvement. Only about one-third of the kids tested scored at proficient levels or better in math, reading and science. (You can find the results here.)

Also, despite modest gains in the average scores of most ethnic groups, a striking racial achievement gap remains. It shows up in an area that the school district has zeroed in on during the last four or five years: Third-grade reading.

The disparity in the English language arts scores of white third-graders and their non-white peers has actually grown during the last five years, despite the district’s efforts to narrow the gap.

If you look at the percentages of those who scored at “proficient” or “advanced” levels in reading — one of the measures used to determine progress in the No Child Left Behind Act — the data is stark: Continue Reading


The Bad News Eradicator

Spin is all the rage these days, in education and pretty much everywhere else (yes, including the media). The funny thing about spin is how obvious it is. As a reporter or a private citizen, it can make you crazy if you don’t find a way to call it for what it is.

That’s what a blogger for The Dallas Morning News did after spotting an article in the August issue of The School Administrator magazine titled, “Eliminate Bad News by Eradicating Negative Language.”

No more straight talk. Euphemisms, all the way.

In response, blogger Tawnell Hobbs, gives some advice of his own: “THIS DOESN’T WORK.”

You can read the blog post here. Continue Reading


Want to mandate 8th-grade algebra? It’ll cost $3 billion, O’Connell says

California’s superintendent of public instruction says that in order for Gov. Schwarzenegger’s de facto eighth-grade Algebra I requirement to work, the state will need to pony up $3.1 billion — “with a `b'” — dollars for smaller math classes, additional class time, more school counseling services, and expanded after school and summer programs.

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell said he was aware that he was making the spendy Algebra I Success Initiative proposal during state budget negotiations marked by deep deficits and planned cuts to education, health and social services. He also noted that the $3 billion proposal mostly included ongoing costs, rather than one-time expenses.

“If the governor is unable to come up with this (funding), then he should encourage the state board to reconsider this mandate,” O’Connell said during a teleconference this morning. Continue Reading