Live chat tomorrow on college, academic prep

Got burning questions about college admissions and academic preparation? Save them up for tomorrow.

As part of the Oakland Tribune’s and Contra Costa Times’ Road to College project, Greg Smith, the vice president of planning and enrollment management at Cal State East Bay, will be on hand tomorrow to answer them.

The live, online chat starts at noon tomorrow (Tuesday). You may submit questions, or you can just read along. You can find it here. You can also sign up for a reminder, if you need reminding.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

photo by Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group


Gap year? What’s that?

Over the past three months I’ve probably been asked about a hundred times what I’m up to next year, and although I dread this repeated question as much as the next high school grad, I also delight in the fact that I can give a response most people don’t expect.

“I’m going to Spain!” is usually my initial response, followed by an in depth explanation of why on earth I decided to put off college. A gap year, as some call it, has become more popular in recent years although still rare here in the states. Most people go straight to college from high school.

Students are usually told this is the best way and schools offer little guidance to those who may want to take an alternative route, which made my decision making process all the more difficult. I was surprised at the lack of information and resources offered to students like me, because I had a lot of questions that were difficult to get answers to. Continue Reading


A potential teacher strike in Richmond

I wonder if this latest development in the West Contra Costa school district has the OUSD administration worried. The Oakland school district’s former state administrator, as you might recall, declared impasse in bargaining just before Superintendent Tony Smith came in. Now there’s a third-party mediator involved.

You can read the Contra Costa Times story about last night’s strike authorization vote here.


Schwarzenegger says he stands with Obama, calls for swift changes to California ed laws

File photo

During a press conference this morning that veered suddenly into a Q & A about prison reform (and never really went back), the governor announced he was lining up with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama — and that the state planned “to go all out” to make California eligible for competitive federal stimulus funding.

Schwarzenegger said he was calling a special legislative session to do away with laws that might make California ineligible. He has asked state Legislators to present him with a package by early October that would lift the state’s charter school cap and allow teacher evaluations to be linked to student test scores.

“The Obama administration has pointed to California and said we have no way to distinguish good teachers from bad teachers, and I happen to agree with that,” Schwarzenegger said. “They call it a firewall and I say, `Let’s tear down that wall.”‘ Continue Reading


Your best advice on getting ready for college

photo by Kristopher Skinner/Staff

My editors plan to turn this Sunday’s front page into a guide for college-bound kids and their families. The guide will run in the Contra Costa Times, as well as the Tribune and its sister papers.

We’ve posted a short list of tips online, and we’re hoping you’ll add some pointers of your own. The Web page is up now; you can find it here.


Test score gains: more knowledge or better prep?

Between 2008 and 2009, 80 percent of Oakland’s elementary schools improved their scores in math AND in English language arts, according to a school district analysis. (A list of the most-improved schools is posted below.)

Oakland’s not alone in its upward trend. On the page 4 and 7 of this news release, you’ll see increases in English and math scores, statewide, especially in the early grades.

John Boivin, who administers the STAR Program Office at the California Department of Education, said there were no major changes this year in the test, itself, or in the scoring of it. He said his team hadn’t yet drawn any conclusions about why the scores went up.

Boivin did say, though, that the law only requires the state to change half of the questions on each test from one year to the next. In other words, experienced teachers have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be on it. Continue Reading


The test results are in. How did your school do?

First things first: You can find out how your state, county, district, school and/or grade did on California’s 2009 spring standardized tests by clicking here.

If you want schoolwide scores (rather than grade by grade) for Oakland, you’re in luck. Once again, the Oakland school district’s number crunchers have come through by compiling a very readable and informative spreadsheet that looks at results, by school, for English language arts and math.

The right half of the spreadsheet shows the percentage of students who showed proficiency in math or English, as well as the percentage-point change from last year. (Green is good. Red is not.) The left half shows the percentage of kids who scored poorly on the tests.  Continue Reading


A turnaround program, just for boys

Jon Gilgoff, executive director of the new Oakland nonprofit Brothers on the Rise, writes about his work to help “build a movement like feminism did.”

It surprises people sometimes that our organization serves all types of boys in Oakland: anxious boys, depressed boys, distracted boys, disruptive boys, and, yes, defiant and aggressive boys, too. We like to explain that just as all types of girls need support from programs like Girls, Inc., the same goes for male youth, too.

It’s amazing the change that occurs when you see a child for who he really is and put him in the position to not only overcome his challenges but then teach others to do the same. At a recent event, we had our socially awkward boys leading 50 guests in get-to-know-your-neighbor games. In a presentation to elementary school boys, we had a recently arrived immigrant confidently explain with a still-thick accent his digital story describing the months of silence he passed in fear of being teased. Continue Reading