School rankings are out. How did yours do?

image from CraigOppy’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Today, the state released its re-calulated Academic Performance Index (API) scores based on tests taken in the spring of 2008. These numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise to many schools, since the STAR test scores and “Growth” APIs were released last fall. 

Each year for some reason, the state education department tinkers with the way it calculates the API, a single, three-digit score based on a battery of tests from the high school exit exam and STAR tests to the English language learner assessments. So the new API numbers, released today, are re-weighted scores based on last year’s results. These numbers will be compared with the 2009 API scores that come out in August or September.

Snore… What’s new, then? The rankings. Continue Reading


So, who will it be?

I just returned from the town hall meeting featuring the final three superintendent candidates. I spoke with a number of people throughout the event and afterward, and asked their perceptions of each finalist: Barbara Adams (right), Tony Smith, and Edward Velasquez.

At least in terms of popular opinion, it seems as though the front-runners are Smith, a deputy superintendent in San Francisco, and Velasquez, superintendent of the 33,000-student Montebello school district in Los Angeles County.

Continue Reading


Five of six measures go down in flames

The early special election results are in. This means the governor will call for an additional $5 billion in cuts to public education — and that our highly polarized state Legislature will once again have to agree on a way to close a deficit now estimated by Schwarzenegger to be $21.3 billion.

How is this uncertainty affecting your school? What programs are taking a hit?

Here’s what Jack O’Connell, our state superintendent of public instruction had to say about the potential impact of this election: Continue Reading


Must be lonely at the top, and far from home

(Left to right) Barbara Adams, Tony Smith and Edward Velasquez

In the last few days, as I learned more about the three people who would be Oakland’s next superintendent, I was struck by what an aspiring administrator will do — or, more precisely, about where they will go — to advance their careers, improve school systems, or whatever it is that drives them professionally.

Remember ex-State Administrator Kim Statham, who for two years flew back and forth to Washington, D.C. to catch an occasional glimpse of her husband and teenage son? Leon Glaster, who had `retired’ to Atlanta with his wife when he was hired to be Oakland’s interim CFO?

Barbara Adams may have both of them beat. Until this spring, the superintendent finalist had worked or studied in Portland, Atlanta and Boston since 2003, while her husband stayed behind at their home in Foster City.

Then there’s finalist Edward Velasquez, who is prepared to Continue Reading


High school debate catching fire in Oakland

photo of Natassija Jordan-Oliver, 15, left, and Jessica Winsey, 16, right, by Ray Chavez/OAKLAND TRIBUNE

This weekend I stopped by the All-City Finals of the new Bay Area Urban Debate League, held at East Oakland’s Fremont campus. I watched just one of the competitions and strained to follow the intricate and rapidly spoken arguments and rebuttals about environmental policy.

“It’s a fusion between adrenaline and creativity and competitiveness,” Street Academy senior Tevah El Ehmet, known as V, told me after the round I observed. Continue Reading


Another year, another Skyline principal search

Pleas from Desley Brooks and dozens of Skyline parents, teachers and neighbors were not enough to convince the Oakland school board to rescind the dismissal of Al Sye from Skyline High School.

So, less than a year after the previous one disbanded, another Skyline High School principal selection committee is about to form. Any takers?

I hear that a meeting Thursday evening to elect committee members was so poorly attended (most likely because the notices apparently didn’t arrive until that day!) that the elections were postponed. Those interested in participating in the interview process — or deciding who will — can attend a PTSA meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Skyline.

photo courtesy of the Skyline Oracle


Oakland Youth Orchestra performs Sunday

photo courtesy of Oakland Youth Orchestra

And it’s free of charge.

The Oakland Youth Orchestra‘s spring concert will feature Hungarian Dances I, V & VI by Johannes Brahms; Harp Concerto by Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf Adaline Stephens, Harp; Symphony No., 29 by Wolfgang Amadeus Moza; Side by side with Oakland School for the Arts Chamber Orchestra; and Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Sunday, May 17, 2009, 3:00 pm
First Congregational Church of Oakland
2501 Harrison Street, Oakland 94612


A $400,000 bake sale seemed ambitious

OUSD dads Mike Napolitano, Mike Mages, and Ron Kriss recently rode their bikes to Sacramento to urge lawmakers to restore public school funding. They wrote a piece about their experience. -Katy

photo courtesy of Julie Harris

Last week the three of us and a friend rode our bikes 100 miles to the state capitol to hand-deliver a petition to elected officials demanding that the state restore funding to public education. In the process we hoped to raise public awareness about the crisis facing schools.

The decision to ride to the capitol came about after learning that our school, Claremont Middle School, which serves 400 students from all over Oakland, will see a $400,000 cut in its funding for next year. If funds are not restored, the school will lose many enrichment programs that staff and the community have worked hard to establish in recent years, and which were just starting to show results. Continue Reading


May budget revision: It’s dire

FRIDAY UPDATE: Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor says the governor’s $5.4 billion scenario could force OUSD to make $21 million in cuts — on top of the $28 million reduction it already faces. I wrote a story today about the development.

If the ballot measures in next week’s special election fail, as expected, California schools could take an extra $5.4 billion hit from their budgets next year. Our governor says it could force schools to shorten the year by 7.5 days, increase class sizes and lay off more teachers.

Even if the measures (which contain temporary tax provisions and spending caps) pass, schools will have to make an additional $3 billion in cuts next year, he says.

You can read both scenarios here.