Time to act

Brian Blaisch, a pediatrician and the parent of an autistic 6-year-old, writes about the challenges he has faced advocating for his child in the Oakland public schools. — Katy

photo of Dr. Brian Blaisch and his son, Jackson, courtesy of Blaisch

I’m used to writing as a physician, not as a parent. I’m a pediatrician in Oakland who has devoted my career to working with the underserved children of our community. But as I come to realize that I’ve done a better job of helping and advocating for my patients and families than my own child, I find myself at a crossroad.

Although I specialize in caring for children with developmental, learning, and behavior issues, I was caught completely off guard when my now 6½ year-old son, Jackson, started developing classic symptoms of autism at around 1 ½ years of age.  What was surprising and disappointing was that when we finally got past our denial and asked for help with diagnosis and treatment, help was and continues to be difficult to find. Continue Reading


O’Connell’s charter school tax — of OUSD

Remember that failed parcel tax that State Superintendent Jack O’Connell put on the November ballot — the one for Oakland teachers that the teachers union opposed? About 15 percent of the tax revenue would have gone to charters, had it passed.

Since it didn’t, O’Connell has decided to tax the Oakland school district, instead. Continue Reading


News flash: CA schools are unequal

Tribune file photo by Ray Chavez

California schools don’t have enough funding and they provide “inadequate and unequal learning conditions and opportunities,” according to the latest annual report by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

The report is more of an advocacy piece than a research analysis, but it does raise (and answer, in no uncertain terms) important questions about the state of public education in California — its class sizes, course offerings, college-going rates, graduation rates, among other measures.  Continue Reading


OUSD taking harder line on charter renewals

These days, it seems, charter school operators had better dot every `i’ and cross every `t’ if they expect to stay in business in Oakland. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but my point is this: The charter school renewal process is hardly pro forma.

The latest example? The OUSD Office of Charter Schools and its external evaluators say Oasis — a small, independent study high school in downtown Oakland — has not lived up to the goals set in its 2004 charter and that its leadership makes excuses for those shortcomings. Continue Reading


A charter debate to watch, at your own risk

UPDATE: I’ve just learned that the debate has been postponed — not sure why.

Tribune file photos of Ben Chavis and Yvette Felarca

Let’s just say that when I chose my furlough dates last month, I had no idea that the below event would be happening in the middle of my time away.

Ben Chavis, the infamously temperamental, “Bay Area liberals”-loathing former director of the American Indian Public Charter Schools is taking on Yvette Felarca, a likewise outspoken leader of BAMN (Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights And Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary) and her colleague, Shanta Driver, in a debate about charter schools.

I wonder if OUSD is taking any additional security precautions. Continue Reading


“Keep up the good work”

At his Tribune retirement party the other month, Bill Brand told me he’d start posting comments on this blog, now that he was no longer a colleague, but I don’t think he ever did. He said he actually found the site interesting, which I took as high praise.

Bill was a reporter and a beer blogger and, when I first started at the paper, he edited copy on Friday nights. He used to go out of his way to let me know when he liked something I had written. Then he’d shake his head and say how boring he found most articles about education.

Yesterday, I dug up an email Bill wrote me about a year ago. He had just read one of my pieces, which shall remain unnamed. “Fascinating, horrible, depressing,” he wrote. “Keep up the good work.”

He died early yesterday morning, almost two weeks after he was hit by a Muni train in San Francisco. Angela Hill wrote a humorous and touching obituary about him, which I thought I’d post. You can read it here.


The impasse is over, but budget cuts are ahead

As you’ve probably read by now, the governor’s expected to sign a budget agreement today that includes deep cuts to education and social services, along with a tax hike. 

This means the state has averted a doomsday cash flow scenario, at least for now, and that schools can actually start planning ahead — or planning their cutbacks, anyway. Here’s the story that ran in today’s Trib.

The deal does give local school districts greater budget flexibility, but it won’t affect the kindergarten through third grade class-size reduction program, which the state PTA and the California Teachers Association lobbied to protect.

Troy Flint, OUSD’s spokesman, said more details about the district’s budget should come out next week. Here’s what Jack O’Connell, our state superintendent, had to say: Continue Reading


How should teachers be measured?

image from kevindooley’s site on flickr.com/creativecommons

Earlier this week, an Education Report reader sent me a link to a recent piece by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, titled, “Our Greatest National Shame.” He was referring, of course, to education in the United States.

The reader said he found most of the column “unremarkable” (especially, I’m sure, when compared to the lofty prose spewing from this keyboard), but Kristof cited two studies that piqued his interest. The reports were about teacher effectiveness, and they made this reader wonder how teacher talent should be measured in public schools, including those in OUSD.

Parent evaluations? Student test score gains? Classroom observations?

For all of the debate about teacher preparation and proper credentialing, some researchers say that those things seem to make little difference. In other words, that it’s hard to tell who’s going to be a good teacher until they start teaching. Continue Reading