Tilden: another ed experiment cut short?

photo of Tilden classroom by Sean Donnelly/Oakland Tribune

Tilden School is a fascinating study in special education — and, more broadly, in promising and potentially short-lived Oakland school district experiments. You can find today’s Tribune story here.

Tonight, the board is expected to vote to close the 125-student elementary school (a plan that might entail relocating its students to one of six different schools) at the end of the 2009-10 year because of facilities and enrollment concerns. It was originally slated to close this June, but parents quickly organized and pushed for another year to craft a stronger plan with more community input, which two board subcommittees approved.

One of the school’s biggest challenges Continue Reading


OUSD and the case of the mysterious bottom line

Last August, I wrote about the fact that no one knew how much money the Oakland school district really had — five years after the 2003 state takeover.

State auditors found all kinds of discrepancies and missing records dating back to 2003, and OUSD hired an outside firm to “disentangle” its finances from those early years — to see if they could uncover the district’s true fund balance.

Now, as that outside firm wraps up OUSD’s cash flow case, the school district’s new CFO has some news for us: Continue Reading


Obama calls for merit pay and an end to “the same stale debates” in education policy

President Obama probably didn’t make too many teacher union friends this morning after a speech about education at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Obama called for the support of successful charter schools, a new academic calendar that would add more instruction time, and better assessments of student achievement — and of teacher performance.

Here’s an excerpt from a detailed CBS/AP story:

He did not propose any specific legislative goals on education in his speech Tuesday at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the president talked about how America must work much harder to keep pace with international competitors. Continue Reading


County official is “alarmed” by O’Connell’s Oakland charter directive

Two weeks ago, I blogged about a $60 per student fee that State Schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell has directed his Oakland appointee, Vincent Matthews, to give the city’s independently run, public charter schools — a total amount now estimated to be $450,000.

O’Connell’s directive — which Matthews plans to approve at Wednesday night’s board meeting — was not well received by the Oakland school board. Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan doesn’t like it, either.

Jordan has written an open letter to O’Connell, calling for him to suspend the mandate Continue Reading


The high school hoops championships are here!

Will Mack’s boys basketball program take state again this year? Maybe its girls team will. Or the Castlemont girls, or the Skyline boys.

photo of last week’s Mack vs. Skyline game by Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group

If you want to come out and support some of Oakland’s student-athletes, Round I of the 2009 CIF State Basketball Championships starts at 7 p.m. tonight, with the McClymonds girls (21-7) at home against Lowell High School (27-4). Continue Reading


Generation Recession

image from buckle1535’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

I saw two stories in the New York Times this weekend about how a prolonged recession might affect children and teenagers — one about how it could shape their ambitions and values in the long-term, as the Great Depression did for those born in the 1920s, and another about how the economy has complicated the college admissions process (for colleges).

Looking for a silver lining? Here’s what the Times story had to say about what some are calling “a students’ market” in college admissions:

Colleges have been in the catbird seat for the past decade or so. As the number of high school students swelled, applications rose, allowing colleges to be more selective. And families benefiting from a flush stock market seemed willing to pay whatever tuition colleges charged. Continue Reading


Oakland teachers get praise — and moola

Teachers at Monarch Academy and at Lighthouse Community Charter School‘s secondary program (grades 7-12), will get more than a pat on the back for the academic strides that their students made last year.

They will share $67,000 and $29,000, respectively, thanks to an award from the Effective Practice Incentive Community (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?), a new initiative of New Leaders for New Schools. It amounts to roughly $3,500 per teacher.

The award money, itself, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund. That, if you recall, is the same source of cash bonus money that the Oakland teacher’s union rejected in 2007 Continue Reading


Hills schools? Not much of an Option.

Oakland’s school assignment letters went out last week, and the appeals line on Monday was long. Michael Bonino, the improbably affable guy who runs OUSD’s high-stress Options program, told me the first person showed up at 2:45 a.m.

All in all, the district’s Family and Community Office expects roughly the same number of appeals as last year — about 500 by the end of the week. According to the preliminary count, 84 percent of incoming kindergarten families got one of their top three picks for 2009; 92 percent of sixth-graders and 98 percent of ninth-graders did.

Here’s where the numbers get interesting (although maybe that’s not the adjective you’d choose): Continue Reading


The Oakland supe search: How closed should the door be?

I’ve heard from other education reporters that Ray and Associates (the Iowa search firm hired to help OUSD find a permanent leader) requires most school districts to withhold the names of its superintendent candidates until the final selection is made — except in states such as Florida, which have more open public records laws.

image of then-Cal State East Bay presidential candidate Mo Qayoumi by Bea Ahbeck

I understand why the district wouldn’t want to announce everyone who had applied for the position, as it might discourage top candidates from applying. But what about the finalists? I observed an interesting process at Cal State East Bay in 2006, before the CSU trustees settled on Mo Qayoumi.

The first few months were very hush-hush. The selection committee was pledged to secrecy about who had applied, and who they had interviewed, for the very reason I described above. But then four finalists were announced, and the process opened up — wide. Continue Reading


And the supe search is … on?

It’s been a bit quiet on the superintendent search front, at least from the public’s perspective. That might soon change.

At a short meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) night that begins at 6 p.m., the Oakland school board settles on a timeline and process for the selection of the next OUSD leader. (That information wasn’t posted a few minutes ago, but I’ll link to it once it becomes available).

The board was once hoping to have someone lined up by April or May. From what I know about these searches, that doesn’t seem too realistic anymore. Continue Reading