The leap from middle to high school

Guadalupe Rodriguez attended Westlake Middle School and will go to Oakland Technical High School in the fall. She tells us what it’s like to be a California public school student right now. -Katy

Hello readers,

This summer went by pretty quick. Registration is Aug. 20 for all ninth-graders at Tech, and the first day of school is Aug. 31.

Some teens say that they are not sure what to expect for their freshman year, and honestly I don’t either. It was hard adapting to middle school, and now that I got used to it I am headed for high school. Those three years went by really quick.

I had my ups and downs just like anyone else, although it is a hard time to be in school due to all the budget cuts and without privileges like better school materials and field trips, which we cannot have easily anymore. The less money the schools have, we have to face it, a worse education Oakland has. Continue Reading


Oakland middle school grad wins scholarship

Crystal Lauti hasn’t even started high school, and already she has earned $10,000 for her college education. 

Crystal just graduated from KIPP Bridge, a charter middle school in West Oakland, and was one of six KIPP students across the country to win the Doris Fisher award this year. About 1,000 students were eligible.

She sounds like a talented and hard-working kid, from the details I read in the below press release. I liked to see that she stepped up to run her school newspaper, although she’s probably smart enough to avoid the industry later in life. Continue Reading


First, teachers. Now, principals.

It’s not only teacher evaluations that education reformers are hoping to infuse with data.

Emily Alpert of Voice of San Diego.org writes about a new proposal in San Diego that would use attendance, test scores and dropout rates in the evaluation of school principals. You can find her story here.

Speaking of test scores: I learned a new term today on Ed Week’s Teacher Beat blog: DRIP (Data Rich, Information Poor) Syndrome.


The latest on teacher vacancies in Oakland

Dying to get the latest HR scoop? Well here it is anyway. It’s all based on info I requested from the Oakland school district’s chief services officer, Laura Moran:

Teachers who retired, quit, or who were let go this year: 254
New hires: 270 (includes new posts at schools with additional students or funding)
Vacancies remaining: 14, and half are for core academic (non-prep) positions.

Sixty of the new hires Continue Reading


A few curmudgeonly thoughts on responsibility

Late last month, I invited a recent high school graduate to write an advice column for an upcoming Sunday project that’s running in the Tribune and Contra Costa Times — a guide for college-bound middle and high school students and their families.

The student agreed, and we set an Aug. 10 deadline. On Aug. 11, after not receiving email responses in the previous week, I called to check in. The student was at the doctor’s office and couldn’t talk.

An hour or two later, this Twitter-sized message pops up in my email inbox:

“im pretty sure. i wont be able to do the column, i been feelings horrible lately.” Continue Reading


Free digital textbooks are up: Any takers?

Remember Arnold’s digital textbook initiative that we discussed in June?

Well, a review of 16 of these newfangled `books’ came out yesterday, and the materials — all free — are posted online.

It looks like they’re all for high school math and science: geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology/life science and earth science.

Ten of the textbooks reviewed covered at least 90 percent of the state content standards for the subject, and four met all of them. Only three of the 16 really bombed the review. (Step it up, Earth Systems!) Continue Reading


Wife of Oakland schools chief resigns from nonprofit after conflict of interest inquiry

Kathleen Osta, the wife of Oakland schools Superintendent Tony Smith, will leave her post as associate director for the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, a school reform nonprofit with longstanding contractual ties with the Oakland school district.

The decision came about because of a conflict-of-interest ruling by the Oakland school district’s new general counsel, Jackie Minor. After reviewing state law and case law for about two weeks, Minor said, she concluded that Osta’s employment with BayCES was a conflict of interest for Smith and the school district.

Minor said concerns about Osta’s employment were raised shortly after Smith’s appointment in May; she wouldn’t say by whom. She concluded that one of two things would have resolved the problem: either Osta stepping down, or BayCES ending its work in Oakland Unified. Continue Reading


My summer in Finland

Jonathan Trinh, a student at Skyline High School in Oakland, writes us from Europe -Katy

Of all countries in the world to spend two months I chose Finland, the small (about the size of Montana), northern European country home to Santa Claus and reindeer.

“Why?” is the question that I’m most frequently bombarded with here. Reasons range from getting away from the city life and going on some sort of vacation on the other side of the planet. But the main reason for me to become an exchange student was to learn about how another, and probably the most different, peoples lived and actually experience that lifestyle for myself personally.

I have so many memories and time has seemed to elapse overnight. It’s been the fastest two months of my life — and sometimes the longest days, too, since the sun doesn’t set until very late during the summer. Continue Reading


New principals and a $1.8m math contract

The Oakland school board is back in business. It holds a special meeting at 5 p.m. this evening with the district’s new superintendent to talk strategic priorities, and it met on Saturday as well.

A couple of things on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the first regular session since June:

  • A new personnel report, in which I learned: Matthew Duffy, the Elmhurst Community Prep principal I profiled in May, is now a Network Executive Officer; Duffy’s assistant principal, Laura Robell, has become acting principal; Elyata Davis is acting principal of REACH; and Claude Jenkins is acting principal of Youth Empowerment School. (The Skyline High School appointment is conspicuously absent, unless I missed it somehow.)
  • A hefty $1.78 million, one-year contract for Swun Math, a program first piloted at a handful of elementary schools. This year, if the contract is approved, Swun Math will be in place at 35 elementary and 18 middle schools throughout the district. 

Most of the schools using the Swun Math method have seen their test scores rise significantly, according to the charts in this district presentation.

Continue Reading


Should Calif. change its teacher evaluation law?

A California law prohibits the state from linking student data to individual teachers “for the purposes of pay, promotion, sanction, or personnel evaluation.” State Superintendent Jack O’Connell says the law doesn’t keep local districts from doing so, but federal education officials still don’t like it.

Why would Californians care? Because the state is competing for over $4 billion in federal stimulus money — also known as Race to the Top funding — and the law might make the Golden State ineligible.

Dana Hull, my colleague at the Mercury News, writes about the issue in much greater detail. You can find her piece here.

What do you make of this whole situation?