So, how did Oakland’s charter schools do?

Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda

You wanted to know how the city’s independently run, publicly funded schools performed on the 2009 state tests. Here’s your answer, courtesy of the OUSD Charter Schools Office.

Of the 27 charters that were around in 2008, 15 made significant gains in both English and math.

The charters with the biggest up-swings were Achieve Academy, Millsmont Academy, Education for Change at Cox Elementary and World Academy. The Conservatory of Instrumental/Vocal Arts (COVA) had less to celebrate: its math proficiency scores dropped by 19 percentage points.

The top-scorers? No surprise to anyone following education in Oakland: At American Indian Public High School, 96 percent of all students scored “proficient” or better in English. And 93 percent of kids at American Indian’s middle school did so in math. Oakland Charter High School wasn’t far behind.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • chauncey

    Damn Katy- I could tell you’re no fan of charters! Its ok though, you dont have to be. It seems as if though the scores are no longer exciting to some cause their have been so many gains among a few charters that it is more exciting to watch them drop and that is a sad statement of this city. Kids are kids.

    I am glad to see OUSD get better.

  • Katy Murphy

    Really? I’m sorry if you detected a negative tone in my blog post. It was certainly not intended!

  • chauncey

    No Sweat- Tired maybe? I like your your blog.

  • Nextset

    What is it about American Indian Charter that keeps them on top of the heap? Are they unusually selective in who they let in or keep? Are they unusually good at raising the scores of the students beyond what the same students whould have done elsewhere? What is it that makes this school special?

  • Yastrzemski

    Discipline, structure, accountability, consequences, rewarding positive behavior, uniforms, etc….the list goes on and on…
    IMHO…I think that they take kids to a different level, a level they could not reach at another school.

  • Caroline

    The Perimeter Primate blog has explored American Indian’s practices. For one thing, the school has aggressively and rapidly gotten rid of the population it used to serve (American Indians, surprise, and African-Americans), and replaced those students with Asians, who (overall, on average) tend to be the highest academic achievers of all demographics. Also, the school is noted for vigorously wooing high achievers — individual students — from nearby schools, and for dumping problem students onto nearby schools right before testing time.

    It’s not magic, people. The worst-performing public school could make huge gains if it engaged in those social engineering practices.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: The “worst performing” public schools should be using the practices you complain of. They can do it for football, what’s the difference? Why can’t OUSD have one academic high school that feeds to Ivy League? Make the huge gains, cull the herd until you do. It’s called, having a “GOOD SCHOOL”. OUSD needs a good school. The good school could inspire the rest of them.

    And another thing – you’d be surprised what you can fing among the black & brown students. If there was a good school that school would develop champions (If not a ton of them) among all the groups. The lack of a good school keeps everybody down. Piedmont’s not taking Oakland students this week – or ever.

  • Roseanne Winston

    Ms. Caroline…you are so fake…you are not for poor-minority kids wanting to be challenged and wanting to be educated.

    You are a racist in disguise.

    In every blog you posted on this website shows you have low expectations of black/brown/red/blue/green/yellow/tan/pink/etc. people.

    People like you are the reasons why schools in America is a failure.

    Have you ever visited AIPCS? Have you ever met any of the Asians, Blacks, Hispanic, or American Indians kids there?

    It seems like you are saying if any Asians, Blacks, Hispanic, or American Indians kids do well or out perform others, you accuse them of doing something wrong.

    Mr. Nextset….I agree with you

  • Caroline

    Nextset and Ms. Winston, the point is that if AIPCS becomes successful by tossing out struggling students, that’s not a true solution. The accounts of AIPCS students landing in nearby public schools just before testing time are admittedly anecdotal, but the statistics showing a rapid change in AIPCS’ demographics are not.

    Sure, it makes a school better if it gets rid of struggling students — I certainly acknowledge that. It just doesn’t create a solution for the struggling students. The most incompetent teachers and administrators can improve their school by tossing out the students who aren’t succeeding.

    Name-calling isn’t an effective way to make your case, Ms. Winston.

  • Caroline

    … and, no, I wouldn’t be surprised to “find” high-achieving black and brown students in schools. My kids have attended diverse urban public schools for their K-12 education, and I know quite a few high-achieving black and brown students.

    But it’s undeniable that overall, on average, based on achievement statistics, African-American and Latino students are more likely to struggle in school.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    For the most recent school year (2008-09) the exact number of 8th graders at AIPCS I (Laurel District) was 13 African American students (9 girls and 4 boys) and 9 Latino students (5 girls and 4 boys).

    In these students’ 6th grade year (2006-07), the school’s enrollment was 17 African American students (11 girls and 6 boys) and 13 Latino students (5 girls and 8 boys). Comparing the two years shows the number of students in that particular class who were either retained, or who left the school.

    Here’s the TOTAL number of African American and Latino 8th graders at AIPCS over the past five years (2004-05 to 2008-09):
    – 24 African American boys
    – 32 African American girls
    – 20 Latino boys
    – 27 Latino girls

    To get a sense of the scale, this is the total number of 8th graders in OUSD over the past five years:
    – 3430 African American boys
    – 3483 African American girls
    – 3098 Latino boys
    – 2994 Latino girls

    AIPCS gets an ENORMOUS amount of attention, but the number of African American and Latino students who select the school – and who the school selects – is teeny tiny.

    Last year, AIPCS II (near Chinatown) had even fewer 8th grade students in those two subgroups (3 African American and 2 Latino students).

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    According to data from the California Department of Education, this is the number of American Indian or Alaska Native 8th grade students launched each year from AIPCS I, over the past several years:

    2008-09 = 1 (one boy)
    2007-08 = 1 (one girl)
    2006-07 = 0
    2005-06 = 7 (5 girls, 2 boys)
    2004-05 = 10 (5 girls, 5 boys)
    2003-04 = 8 (6 girls, 2 boys)
    2002-03 = 4 (2 girls, 2 boys)
    2001-02 = 23 (11 girls, 12 boys)

    2001-02 was Ben Chavis’ first year at the school.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: I have no problem at all with the thin number of blacks at the good school. That is the way life works. It’s more important that a good school stay good than have affirmative action babies present who can’t do the work. If OUSD would segregate its schools by performance I think over time you would have more minority students from poor families and single mothers trickle in as they better performers were noticed and moved up by family or by teachers. And more importantly every monority student in the good schools would be accepted as really belonging.

    Do I have a problem with different distribution of different talent among the different ethnics? Do I have a problem with any differences in the ethnics? Let’s just say I’ve got over it. Those who haven’t have issues with reality and need help. People are people they are not what you want them to be. And to a large degree they do what they want not what you think they should.

    Culling of the non performers is no problem. Football teams do it. This is no different. Dull people (of any ethnic) need a different league also.

  • Nextset

    Before I get going this am, another thought came to me. Some of the readers have think the students who left AI were expelled somehow. Does it occur to you that they walked out on their own because they didn’t want to do the work? Especially just before the testing when they might have been expected to drill or work on their deficiencies? People really are free (currently) to make their own choices to stop working and stop trying. We don’t beat them (No Nuns).

    And Yes, my 3rd Grade Nun would sometimes hit you for wrong answers. It made class much more interesting, especially for those who did well.

    Stop blaming the school because non-performers leave. I saw people leave law school. Some of them finally realized what it meant to be in professional school and decided they didn’t want to do the work. Did they jump or were they pushed? I can argue that based on the bar passage rate not nearly enough (black students) were pushed. Is that “racist” or is that expressing due concern for the wasted seats and the student loan debt and lost earnings and other opportunities the 8 out of 10 incurred? (Since then there are far, far fewer black students at that school. Wonder why!)

    A good school clearly sets it’s standards, maintains them, and doesn’t waste everybody’s time with students who don’t fit in. They help them find a suitable alternative. You don’t go to a good oncologist for a toothache.

  • Nextset

    Thought more about the above and realized the story wasn’t fairly complete.

    The black bar pass rate was shocking low for artificial reasons. The accreditation rules said that the faculty was to control admissions. However the school had established a (sizeable) quota for black admissions and allowed the black students to decide who would get those seats. Every year the school would turn over the boxes of black applicaitons and the student committee (which was to the left of perhaps Angela Davis) would interview the students and send in a list for acceptance letters.

    What the students were doing was picking from the bottom of the LSAT & grades and approving only those deemed “black” enough. They were delaying or rejecting the higher scoring applicants long enough for them to be accepted elsewhere and go elsewhere. One might even think they were looking for certain hues. In any event a few years of this and the bar passing rate reached historic lows, affecting the school’s overall rate. Key members of the faculty threw a fit and retook control. Currently things are a litle more rational. I expect the bar pass rate gap reflects national trends rather than something outrageous.

    During that period we had students with gang symbols carved into their shoulders and LSAT scores 30% to 50%. They did not do well. They’d sit together in the back of class and avoid participation. Many of the other students knew exactly what was going on and had open contempt for all the black students as being manifestly unqualified and having stolen seats that belonged to their friends. The faculty was under pressure not to flunk the non-performers and most of them graduated. The bar exam stopped them cold.

    But the school touted it’s “diversity”.

    Brave New World

  • Caroline

    Of course those questions are much discussed among those of us who point out the astronomical attrition rates at the supposed “it’s a; miracle!” schools like the KIPP schools, Nextset — how DO the schools get rid of those low-performing kids?

    The standard in education is known as “counseling out” — “this school isn’t a good fit for your child.”

    Yes, of course this can happen in public schools too. The difference is that if an OUSD or SFUSD public school counsels out a problem student, the student is still a district student, just at another school. So the district is still dealing with the kid, his/her issues, his/her impact on test scores and classes, etc. If a charter counsels out a problem student, it never has to set eyes on the student or trouble its little head about the student ever again.

    There can be more going on than counseling out a troublesome student, of course. KIPP is known to tell many of its students that they have to repeat a grade, and that gets rid of some who don’t want to cooperate. KIPP also weeds out some who are inquiring about enrolling the same way — telling kids who have completed sixth grade that they have to repeat sixth grade.

    And schools like AIPCS and KIPP undoubtedly weed out many students with their strict rules and demands — both at enrollment time and by getting rid of the non-compliant as they go along. I was intrigued to read that KIPP teaches its students to “walk briskly down the hall” (I think I should be hired to teach this lesson; I am really good at walking briskly.) If you watch teenage boys slouch and swagger around the urban streets and ponder that, you can see that there are boys who would definitely leave the school before they’d cooperate with a “walk briskly down the hall” lesson.

    Of course you are right that keeping out/getting rid of lower-functioning, challenging students is a way to improve a school. It’s a perfectly legitimate way, if you look at it that way. But here are some points:

    — It’s only legit if the school is honest about it. If the school is pretending to take challenged, at-risk kids and improve them, while actually getting rid of the challenged, at-risk kids, the dishonesty discredits the school — it’s not doing what it says it is. Any troubled public school could improve if it did the same thing, so why shower dishonest charter schools with praise, gushing press coverage and private donations for doing it?
    — It doesn’t solve the problem — yet it purports that it DOES solve the problem. The dishonesty (and gullibility by all those who buy the false story) is, again, a big part of the picture.

    If the football team improves by kicking off the weaker players, that’s fine as long as it’s obvious. But if the football teams improves that way while claiming that it worked miracles by turning weak players into talented athletes (and the public, press and political leaders fall for the false story), that’s a problem — at least if turning weak players into talented athletes is the goal, so to speak.

    Katy, when I blast the gullible press for falling for the charter school hype, I need to add that you are an exception, a conscientious and aware reporter. I’ll also cite Nanette Asimov and Jill Tucker at the Chronicle as savvy, principled, skeptical and smart about charters. Unfortunately, with the newspaper business near collapse and the bounteously funded charter school industry offering a lucrative new career path, it’s tough for an education reporter not to sell out, if only by simply refraining from asking tough questions.

  • Debora

    Sharon: I have contact with two African American students at the school who chose to leave. Their families (mother, 2 aunties and grandmother) found it too restrictive. They didn’t like the way the students were talked to when they didn’t have their homework done while relatives were in town.

    I think if our entire district held students accountable in ALL schools, more families would expect the strict structure of a school like AICS. In our district, my experience is that students who are tardy under the 31 minute rule have very few consequences and their parents / guardians have none. If homework is not done, students are not required to have consequences for behavior. We teachers, other parents, volunteers and staff fear parents retaliation from parents for being “harsh” or “racist.” However, not holding ALL students accountable is creating its own set of problems, namely students who are not keeping up with others.

    Some of this is cultural. Some cultures consider visiting relatives a priority over school work, others create an environment where students must first do the work of a student because that is their job, before visiting relatives. This is part of the reason that Lincoln Elementary, with nearly all Asian students, the vast majority of whom live below the poverty level achieve in such high numbers.

    We need to decide as a district whether it is an important part of OUSD education to hold students accountable for not arriving on time with work complete. Our handbook says there are consequences. I often find the opposite to be true.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    Debora: It sounds like there would have to be a whole lot of policing just to keep students and their parents accountable. I’m sure some could be reigned in, but it might be easier and cheaper to just kick all the non-compliants out of OUSD, and if they want to get back in, they’ll have to come begging on their knees.

    Here is an interview with Joe Clark, the principal who took reigns of Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey back in 1983. Morgan Freeman depicted him in “Lean on Me.” Just where the 300 kids he kicked out ended up going and doing, no one ever says. If they were just hanging out on the corner, that would have caused problems for the Paterson police force.

    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4BR7Uz0Y-o&feature=related
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xk8xXcfeZw

    Nextset: You’re absolutely going to LOVE those clips! I can tell that the two of you are cut from the same cloth. Maybe you could whip up some donations from your associates, and sponsor Joe Clark for a visit to OUSD so he can set everyone straight.

    If a much more severe method of managing schools is our country’s salvation, why has it had such a hard time gaining traction? If it’s such a guiding light, why won’t more people follow? Perhaps there is something about the approach which is just a bit off-kilter.

    And don’t take me wrong — I do like discipline and compliance and wish there was more, too. Every teacher would be happier if the students and their parents were more compliant. I think school climate issues are our schools’ biggest problem.

    But also, I don’t see how Joe Clark’s way could be practically and widely imposed at this point in this milieu. I would also guess that his effect on Paterson HS was only temporary. I think the problems are much more complicated and deeply rooted, and I don’t believe in any magic bullets.

  • Debora


    Collaboration seems to be the word of the year with the new principals and superintendent. Trust seems to be another. Yet, it is my experience that we do not trust parents, ourselves or our students enough to sit down as a group beginning in early elementary school to say that reading and language arts are taught in the morning more often than any other subject. When you bring your student in late to school they are unable to participate. For those who have difficulty getting here on time, their students will often have difficulty learning. Since the student is not in the class learning during regular school hours, how should the missed learning be handled?

    This is where the collaboration should take place. It would then be a reasonable expectation of everyone in the group, including the student beginning in second grade to offer some suggestions. Anything less that that type of collaboration is saying that we do not trust that families are able or willing to support their students so we will leave them out of the equation.

    I watched the two film clips. I thought they were reasonable and balanced. You had the drill sergeant principal who was not effective with learning, but created order and safety by nearly any means necessary balances against the snarky upper middle class white guy who has never taught or administered in an urban high school but who had enough education to say how it should be done. Seems like a reasonable balance. Nothing accomplished, but plenty of soap boxes for standing around the room so that everyone could have an opinion.

    The second clip was from a Hollywood movie based on the drill sergeant and and a bunch of people who seemed to care for students but had a chaotic environment that seems to have little control or order. As a student, I would have had a difficult time learning in that environment, much less feeling any pride about the school attending.

    I believe that we want to keep students in school, so we pay the price of lower the behavior standards and expectations, but as a person who is asked to hire these “graduates” I am telling you for an absolute fact, they carry their lack of work ethic, time management and lack of order into the work world. Principals, teachers, schools, districts and parents who do not handle the problem in school are pushing it on the the community at large to handle the problem. Which is no different than the high school teachers who complain that these students were not taught to read, compute math or work habits in middle school, elementary school and home; which is no different than the middle school teachers who complain that these students were not taught to read, compute math or work habits in elementary school and home; which is no different than the elementary school teachers who complain that these students were not taught to sufficient language and proper behavior at preschool and home. Passing it down the line . . . .

  • Caroline

    Famously, the “reforms” created by Joe Clark at Eastside High School in Paterson, N.J., did not succeed. The school continued to struggle — any improvement there may have been was temporary, illusory or both — and Clark left education (I read that he had gone into administration for correctional institutions).

    Jonathan Kozol wrote about this in his book “Savage Inequalities” — having lent the book out, I can’t confirm whether that’s where I read that Clark had gone into prison management.

    In fact, most of the well-known “it’s a miracle!” films about supposedly incredible school reforms don’t hold up to scrutiny. Even the famous Jaime Escalante of “Stand and Deliver” was never able to replicate his achievement in subsequent positions at other schools.
    It’s even a little questionable how exaggerated that story was at the time. It was promoted by Jay Mathews, then a business reporter in Los Angeles, who “discovered” Escalante and wrote the book and the screenplay. Mathews then became the most prominent and successful education reporter in the U.S., for the Washington Post and Newsweek. So he was boosting his own career and income by telling Escalante’s story. Did it benefit him to pump it up a little or a lot? Is the Pope religious?

    Sorry to poke holes in optimistic views, but skepticism is unfortunately warranted…

    All that said, I’m not opposing firm disciplinary standards, of course. A particularly tough situation involves the cultures that, as Debora says, “consider visiting relatives a priority over schoolwork.” I have friends who teach in schools that are mostly Filipino, Mexican and Central American, and close family ties are very important in those cultures — which can indeed translate to making visiting relatives a top priority. (This does mean weeks-long visits to the home country during the school year at times, which is infuriating for the teacher and devastating to the student’s education.)

    Yet it’s rather a tough situation for the school to tell those families to make close family ties less of a priority — by definition, the families are likely to heed their cultural/family traditions rather than the directives from the school.

  • Nextset

    I’m aware of Joe Clark. I had a great uncle who was a high school principal of the black high school in his town. When the school were integrated he remained principal of a mixed school. His tactics were similar. I remember visiting him when I was in grade school and walking the halls of his school with him during a school day. He and the students were all over each other in a way I didn’t see in my public school. Perhaps that had something to do with the socioeconomic level of the schools.

    I consider Joe Clark’s tactics to be something I’d use when all the other curses didn’t work. Send him in to clean up a ghetto school you want to become a real school. I don’t see him being used in an existing good school. In other words, too ghetto for my tastes.

    Caroline: I agree the school should make it’s standards clear (although not repeat them often). beyond that I think a good school should run out those who have no intention of conforming to the rules. They should be gone – publicly run off. And that is not hard to do. As far as where they go, that’s obvious. They go to the BAD school. Every district has/needs one. the school that collects the losers until they go to jail or get themselves killed or whatever their fate is. OUSD should get one and start moving the kids who don’t intend to change for the better there.

    Debora: I read your post with interest about the family with the “Mother, aunties & grandmother”. Typical. Female headed households… I’d like to think that if the school authority explained to the women they way things are and the way they are going to be, they could all decide if they wanted to keep the kid in the good school or would just transfer it to the bad school and get it over with. Sorry if I’m not feeling very PC at the moment. The reason OUSD is having these problems is that they do tell these people that they are going to respect their “culture” and this is the sort of problems that result.

    I am not preaching the Catholic School way is the solution to everything. I’m not at all religious. BUT they didn’t have these problems no matter how blue collar the families were. The school has to set the tone from the beginning about what is expected and what the rules are. Sure you can have emergencies and make exceptions – but if the family doesn’t intend to follow the rules at all – or try to set their own agenda – send the kid to the bad school – the lowest common denominator school – the place for the kids who do things their way.

    OUSD needs to establish “real” schools and protect those (along with the “real” teachers in them). Let these non-comformist non-compliant kids and families go elsewhere. It’s free choice. And the other families can choose not to have their kids associate with the screw-ups.

  • Caroline

    Whatever one thinks of Joe Clark’s practices in theory, in real life they didn’t work. It’s a myth that they did, though it sounded nice in the movies.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    The current principal of Bishop O’Dowd, Joe Salamack, worked as first a teacher, then a dean and then an assistant principal in OUSD secondary schools for many years (Bret Harte and Montera). From what I’ve been told, he wasn’t afraid to confront custodians who weren’t doing their jobs, and always used a bullhorn to make sure the kids could hear him. His demeanor rubbed some of the people at the schools the wrong way, but others totally loved him. He kept everyone on their toes, and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he was a tall male. Humans are primates who are delicately wired to constantly cue into status, after all.

    There are some charismatic school administrators who are gifted with enough energy and the strong instinct for managing student behavior without being at all abusive. It would be interesting to figure out if this quality can be instilled, or if those types of people are just born that way. Maybe it’s a case of nature vs. nurture.

    Nextset: When talking about human potential, don’t you pretty much go with the “nature” theory?

    Another thing to speculate about is how many years can we expect someone to realistically have the stamina to “be on” all the time in this way? Although perhaps once the tone is set, only a maintenance mode would need to be employed. Successors would have to be able to carry it on.

    Also, maybe there is an important downside to having a school run by this type, such as even reasonable people getting unfairly dinged by the aggressive mode. There would need to be some balance.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: I agree that nature is primary in human behavior. That is the reason we see groups of humans having certain outsomes as groups.

    Having said that there is room for manipulating individuals to get them an outcome within the range of their potential. Sometimes this manipulation is pleasurable for the subject, sometimes it involves whooping that ass literally or figuratively and it’s not so pleasant to the subject but directly leads to an outsome greater than what would have been expected otherwise.

    I believe the reason we have the problems we do with the black students behavior and outcomes is largely genetic having much to do with physical things such as age of onset of puberty and health, height weight issues as well as IQ which is largely predetermined based on parentage and subsequently affected only to some degree by nutrition (prenatal and postnatal). Ditto for the Asians who are not going to be on a football team. Each group, and people within the groups, have different sets of advantages/disadvantages. That’s life and this is not anything to cry about. Most people like being themselves – Michael Jackson excepted.

    Our schools are expected to take what comes through the door and get the best for each student. Telling them they are the same and therefore they should be ashamed of themselves if they don’t score the same on each task is not doing anyone any good. Are the Charters cherry picking students? I wouldn’t be so surprised. Charters aren’t in business not to show results.

    Since the public schools are married to the assumption that all are the same, they are floundering when faced with a multicultural students body. They do not serve the left side of the bell curve well since they don’t adjust anything to their needs. They may even go so far as to run them off by requiring algebra at 8th grade when the left side of the curve are struggling to handle basic math at 8th grade (as well as Dick and Jane readers).

    Charters are by definition more nimble, more flexible and now they’re going to have to be more exclusive. Because they are not here to fail (like the publics).

  • Nextset

    Sharon: Also… while some people here say that the black students problems are “poverty” or such nonsense, they forget that early onset of puberty means that the parents of your black children have had their kids starting (Like Aretha Franklin) at 14 and 15 years old. Decent men don’t marry such women so you have the single mother syndrome. Single mothers mean rogue elephants – aggressive unsocialized males, as well as more emotionally adrift girls who are likely to breed early and often with different rogue elephant men. Welcome to your new classroom full of kids.

    Compare this to the Asians with delayed puberty.

    And you wonder why Shanikinika and Tyrone don’t do so well in Algebra. So is the reason for this “cultural” or does it have something to do with generations of the black women hitting puberty near age 10 or 11? Even a 6 month average difference has an effect. And the Black vs Asian difference is a lot more than that.

    The effect on the girls of early puberty is clear, but on the boys, study the mortality charts for Blacks vs Asians. Look at the cause of death percentages for children. The differences in rates of trauma vs illness. The boys have issues also. Physical differences. Physical differences that drive behavior.

    So now we have Charters with a different racial mix than the town. Is this because the Charters are somehow “racist” or evil, or is it the different needs of the racial groups and how those needs are being handled?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Nextset, your grasp of pseudo-science is impressive.