Stanford professor: Oakland’s small schools work

photo courtesy of Angie Taylor, Oakland Community Organizations

Overall, Oakland’s small schools initiative has been a success, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond told the superintendent and the school board — which commissioned the research — tonight. Hundreds of kids, teachers, principals and parents, many of whom wound up in the overflow room upstairs, applauded the findings before sharing their own stories.

I know, that’s a pretty simplistic thing for me to say about a movement that started with some fed-up parents some 10 years ago and that grew into a high-profile, Gates Foundation-funded strategy (or was it a tactic?) to improve education in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Oakland Unified has created dozens of new schools as a result. Not all of them have succeeded. Some are no longer open.

In the seven years since the first small school opened, however, the district’s enrollment has dropped from more than 50,000 to about 38,000 students, and its budget has shrunk accordingly. Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor — who was brought in to help the district recover, financially — said as soon as she arrived that it was time to take another look at the small schools.

That, of course, made people pretty nervous.

Now, as the board considers whether to close up to 15 schools to save money, Darling-Hammond’s summary findings might help some of them remain open. She recommended, for example, that the board “try not to have undefined mergers Continue Reading


Teachers unpin Obama buttons

You might have seen a story today about teachers at Soquel High School, near Santa Cruz, who agreed not to sport their “Educators for Obama” pins in class.

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, a parent — a John McCain supporter — complained about the presence of campaign paraphernalia, and the principal of Soquel High asked teachers to take off the pins while they were teaching. They did.

What’s the practice here in Oakland? Continue Reading