Ruling by committee

Wanna talk safety? How about academics? Facilities? Finances? Ethics?

You name it, there’s a new committee for it. Under state control, the Oakland school board went years without being able to cast a vote that counted or delve into critical issues with district staffers. Now, the elected officials appear to be in the midst of a governing frenzy — and who can blame them? Continue Reading


Obama taps Russlynn Ali for civil rights post

President Obama announced today that he would nominate Russlynn Ali to be the assistant secretary for civil rights at the United States Department of Education.

Ali is vice president of Education Trust, a civil rights and education advocacy group. She also directs its Oakland-based partner, Education Trust-West, so she’s endured a number of interviews with me.

In case you were wondering, Ed Trust supports the “results-based accountability” of No Child Left Behind as a way to narrow the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. Continue Reading


Do school districts need more flexibility?

image from Ingorrr’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

If you’ve been following news about the state education budget, you’ve probably been hearing the term “flexibility” quite a bit. At a press conference yesterday, Oakland’s interim superintendent, Roberta Mayor, asked for more of it — minutes before a state PTA representative spoke out against it. (You know you’ve got a contentious issue on your hands when clashing appeals emerge from a joint publicity event.)

But what is budget flexibility, exactly, and what might it mean for California schools? Continue Reading


Vandals strike elementary school

UPDATE: OASES, an organization that works with Lincoln Elementary, is coordinating volunteer efforts. Those interested in lending a hand or donating replacement materials may contact Nhi Chau at nhi@oases.org, or at 510.891.9928 ext. 10. I’ve attached the school’s wish list here.

Imagine arriving at your classroom one morning and seeing this.

Two portable classrooms and the teacher’s lounge were badly vandalized over the weekend at Lincoln Elementary School, a California Distinguished School in Oakland’s Chinatown. Little was stolen aside from a TV set and some emergency food supplies, said Nhi Chau, a program coordinator with Oakland Asian Students Educational Services (OASES).

“They splattered paint all over the classrooms. Everything went upside down,” she said. Continue Reading


Final semester allows for exploration

Well now that it is my last semester of high school I have taken it upon myself to not worry so much about my school work and start exploring things I never got a chance to explore.

High school seems to have flown by and now that its almost over I find myself regretting that I didn’t do more. I was too busy taking AP classes and worrying about getting straight A’s that I couldn’t really explore extra-curricular activities that sparked my interest. Sure, I am involved in clubs and sports and community service, but there is so much more out there.

But now is my chance. Continue Reading


A fair for school dropouts

Oakland’s public schools lost more than 1,300 students in grades 7 through 12 during the 2006-07 year alone, according to the latest California Department of Education estimates. The district’s four-year high school dropout rate is estimated to be 36 percent.

Now that they’re gone, can these students be brought back into the fold? We’ll see.

Dropouts and/or their families can learn about the options available to them at a fair held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Oakland City Hall. Those options include alternative education programs such as Advance Path, Peralta’s new Gateway to College program, Job Corps, and the East Bay Career Advancement Academy

If you’re interested in being a tutor or a mentor, you can stop by to learn about volunteer opportunities. Continue Reading


School reform: the “off-with-their-heads” approach

An OUSD parent called my attention to the following Education Week blog post by Diane Ravitch, an NYU researcher and former United States Assistant Secretary of Education, about extreme measures to improve public schools in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York City. Ravitch talks about new school creation and the wholesale replacement of teachers and principals.

Sound familiar? She writes:

From what I know, and from what I have seen, schools are not shoe stores or hamburger joints, which can be opened and closed at the owner’s whim. They should be durable institutions with deep roots in the local community. If they are low-performing, every effort should be made to help them. And, further, I have seen many terrible new schools created in the past few years, some of them regular public schools, some of them charter schools. Continue Reading