Oakland student director tells it like it is

Cecilia Lopez, an Oakland High School senior who served as a student director on the school board this year, finished her term with a bang tonight during a discussion about stiffer graduation requirements and access to courses required for admission to state universities (known as A-G classes).

Lopez piped up after Jim Mordecai, a retired teacher and school board meeting regular, told the board that such a change would backfire — and that huge numbers of students, unable or unwilling to handle these new district requirements, would defect to independently run charter schools.

“Keep dreaming,” Mordecai said.

Lopez had this to say to the naysayers (“I have heard rumors of teachers not being for this,” she said): Continue Reading


Truancy down in Oakland schools

You might have seen Jill Tucker’s piece in the Chronicle yesterday on the 23 percent drop in truancy this year in San Francisco schools, an improvement attributed to a parental prosecution policy and other citywide efforts.

The Oakland school district has its own campaign to boost attendance (and state funding), called Attend and Achieve. District staff say it seems to have had a big impact — well, at the elementary and middle school levels, anyway.

Here are the numbers.


Who needs textbooks, anyway?

An Oakland teacher and blog reader sent me a link to this story about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest idea for closing California’s enormous budget deficit AND reducing childhood back strain in one fell swoop.

I love this first sentence:

“Kids, as you all know, today are very familiar with listening to their music digitally and online and to watch TV online, to watch movies online, to be on Twitter and participate in that and on Facebook,” Schwarzenegger said. Continue Reading


A future Oakland teacher, waiting for placement

I wake up, brush my teeth, check e-mail, check my Oakland City Teacher Corps status viewer, check EdJoin, then check the OUSD page.

I have been guaranteed a job through Oakland City Teacher Corps (OCTC), but I have little idea where that job will be. The search is an anxious one. I am eager to start writing lesson plans, meeting students’ parents/guardians, memorizing the relevant standards, and working with my principal to cram as many of my beloved technical toys in my classroom as possible.

So far, I’ve had a few moments when I’ve eagerly called my fiancee into the room — invitations to apply for one post or another. Continue Reading


When little kids face big decisions

Interviews and blog comments about the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Josue Lopez-Gil in East Oakland — and its frightening aftermath for those who witnessed his death and others — once again made me step back and compare this reality to my own childhood in the Chicago suburbs.

What kinds of decisions did I make when I was 10, 11 and 12? Let’s see … whether try out for the basketball team, whether to leave my tiny Catholic school and go to the big public one, who to sit next to on the bus or in the cafeteria, whether to get a perm…

Those years were not idyllic, by any means. But the decisions I confronted at that immature stage of life — except for, say, whether to look before crossing the street — were of relatively little physical consequence. Continue Reading


How will OUSD use its special ed stimulus check?

They’ve got the cash. Now’s your chance to tell Oakland Unified how it should spend about $5.5 million of its one-time special education stimulus money.

Oakland’s Community Advisory Committee on special education has until tomorrow to give feedback on this proposal. Apparently there are two rules: No new staff can be hired with this money, and it must be spent within two years.

You’re welcome to give your feedback here, and to share it directly with the committee by sending an email to cacoakland@comcast.net.


Oakland teacher contract talks: impasse ahead?

Below is the (copied and pasted) bulletin from the Oakland teachers union, based on today’s contract negotiations with district negotiators:

OEA Bargaining Update
District Gives OEA a “Package Proposal”—in the last 10 minutes of bargaining!

On June 3rd, the OEA Bargaining Team and our ECE Bargaining Consultants met to discuss Early Childhood Education issues with the District team. Ten minutes before the end of the last scheduled bargaining date this year, the District chose to hand us a 78-page “package proposal” containing all of their current proposals, asking us to reply to it as a package by June 11. Continue Reading


Don’t call them nerds! Geometry prowess at an Oakland middle school

There’s been a big push lately to have all students take Algebra I in eighth grade. A group of kids at Urban Promise Academy, a middle school serving kids from the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods, have taken it a step further. Their teacher, Abby Paske, shares her story with us. -Katy

photo courtesy of Abby Paske, Urban Promise Academy

After months of hard work and dedication, the eighth-grade geometry class at Urban Promise Academy Middle school is first in the district. 100 percent of students passed the district’s spring assessment, and 83 percent of them achieved a mark of exceeding. The next closest school had a mere 50 percent of students achieving the mark of exceeding.

Urban Promise Academy, or UPA, is an urban school in California where over 80 percent of the students at the school receive free or reduced lunch. It is a small school by design, with the mission of preparing students for college and beyond.

After ranking second in the district mid-term assessments, UPA students were excited, but hesitant about their ultimate success. Continue Reading