Oakland’s Lincoln Elementary nominated for National Blue Ribbon

Lincoln Elementary School kindergarten
Tribune file photo by D. Ross Cameron

Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland’s Chinatown has just been nominated for the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award, which honors schools for high academic achievement.

Lincoln was one of 35 public and private schools statewide to be nominated for the 2010 award by the California Department of Education, and the only one from Oakland. The school has an API of 933 out of a possible 1,000 points, one of the highest in the district.

About 78 percent of Lincoln’s roughly 600 students come from low-income families, and about 58 percent are English learners, according to its 2008-09 school accountability report card. Most of its students are Asian-American, and about half of its teachers are fluent in Cantonese.

Assistant Principal Angela Aquino gave credit to Lincoln’s experienced teaching staff, which includes veterans of 30 or more years (A former kindergarten student and her teacher are now colleagues!).

“We’ve got such a stable set of teachers who’ve been here for so long,” Aquino said. “With that stability comes consistency.”

In 2007, the American Indian Public Charter School in the Laurel District became the first public school in Oakland to win a National Blue Ribbon. In 2008, Oakland Charter Academy, a predominately Latino middle school in East Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, won the award. 

If Lincoln meets its 2010 No Child Left Behind targets and receives the award, it will be the first district (non-charter) school to do so in Oakland.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    Please… Remember what I have said about some students being capable of teaching themselves if they have to? The test on the quality of a school is adding value to what came in the door. The Asian student population discussed here is notoriously high IQ and high performing. When they move into middle school they are also a late onset of puberty ethnic. OF Course they do relatively well. Until they are thrown something they have no advantage in (such as tracking multiple objects in motion?).

    So you are not going to have the problems of performance, behavior and scoring that you will from a large group of Mexicans and Blacks. It’s great that they are doing well but it is not a reflexion of great teaching. Attempting to say so (without acknowledging the differences with the other OUSD ethnics) makes the reviewer suspect.

    OF Course Lincoln get awards, they are an Asian School. It’s not that they’ve done anything noteworthy other than managed to be a segregated school. You would have had the same thing or greater if you had a school full of German Jews. Just look at the charted average IQs of the different groups.

    Nothing on Lincoln’s success should detract from the teachers at OUSD who work in the segregated black and brown schools. You can’t compare the tactics, lessons, performances of the different groups. They are different. They work well only with different teaching.

    I am not trying to pop their bubble here but it’s wrong to crow about this as if the teachers somehow made these kids smart and aren’t working on the other kids. The teachers did not do this – the students were better students all along.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Congratulations to Lincoln, but I must agree with the core of Nextset’s post. This school is unique among Oakland schools with a 92% Asian population.

    I disagree with Nextset’s “notoriously high IQ” [of Asians] statement. IQ tests are not even given to most students, so there is no data available to support that assertion. I agree with the “high performing” part, but I think the disproportionate degree of success among certain groups of Asian students is due to cultural differences in how education is viewed and prioritized.

  • Chauncey

    Ameican Indian has a large Asian pop also, and they got the Blue Ribbon.

    On ther hand, Oaklan Charter has 90%+ Latino pop and got it. Funny thing is. no one reported on their success which is truly remarable- and instead focus on smut about Mr. Chavez and amerina indian.

    I still think Lincoln deserve credit, but OCA desrves a medal!

  • Nextset

    Let’s Get Real: My comments about group IQs are not from any current student testing but the long history of US Army Draft IQ testing that goes back to WWI. There are plenty of other studies that have been done nationally and internationally across the 20th Century. IQ testing in the public schools have been banned more recently especially for black students. This was part of the ’60s Civil Rights nonsense that serves to screw over generations of Blacks. Hiding the IQ ball prevents identification and promotion of high IQ black students. There are so many IQ test surrogates (PSAT, SAT, etc) that it is a futile thing.

    Anyway, you don’t need an IQ test when you are working with segregated groups. The proof’s in the pudding.

    And there is nothing unique about segregated schools. They are all over the place. We just look at the performance profiles and move on to the demographic reports.

    Those who pretend these numbers don’t exist or don’t mean anything usually have a PC agenda. Kind of like the Emperor and the Clothes thing.

    And these “cultural differences” that you cling to and home is some kind of an excuse for the IQ issue are themselves a function of physical differences.

    The most important physical difference is the onset of puberty and the reproduction profile (these are different for the ethnic groups). A group that has children later in life and fewer of them, have far different attitudes towards childrearing than a group that reproduces very early, indiscriminatly, with multiple deadbeat males, with larger average number of children. You may say culture, Others may say biological programming. Or not.

    The point is, a school full of Asians in no way compares to a school full of Blacks or Mexican-Indians. It’s PC silliness to try to attribute the behavior and results of such a collection of people primarily to the virtues of the teachers.

    So I have real problems tying teacher pay to performance. Or praising teachers because they managed to get a school full of Asians to teach at.

    And I am not politically correct either, just correct.

    Brave New World.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Nextset, in spite of the army IQ tests, I maintain that the primary differences between achievement in some Asian populations and other groups of students is largely cultural, and not due to superior intellect.
    I don’t see how you can disagree that one’s attitude toward education has a major effect on one’s achievement. You always make remarks about the behavior and attitudes of students of color and the negative effect it has on them.

    I think that, across the board, regardless of ethnicity, families and communities who value education and have high expectations for achievement tend to produce academically successful children. Conversely, those who don’t do so create the opposite effect. There are always exceptions, of course.

    I’m sure that the educators at Lincoln and other blue ribbon schools are highly qualified and effective and deserve to be praised for their work. However, I don’t think that we should overlook the effect on learning that the cultural/family background of the students brings.

  • Nextset

    Again the “culture”..

    Do you contend that this culture has no foundation in physicality? It seems that you do which would fit in to the worldview that people are all equal and if we just did a lot of transracial adoption everybody would get the same grades in the same classes.

    Well, there are transracial adoption studies. It’s not that easy to change people into something others want them to be.

  • cranky teacher

    Let’s Get Real: Those of us who have been visiting this site for a while learn that you never win engaging Nextset on his IQ/”Bell Curve” theories. He is obsessed with a DNA determinism model and won’t accept contradictions even when he himself presents them, as you just pointed out.

    IQ tests have never been a neutral measure of potential, as opposed to development to that moment. The only way you could neutrally measure intellectual potential would be with some futuristic software using electrodes attached to a brain.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    For the past five years, Lincoln’s enrollment has been 610 (04-05), 606, 609, 583, and 560 (08-09).

    I’m just curious, how do you strong “small schools” proponents out there rationalize Lincoln’s accomplishments in view of this?

  • Caroline

    I skimmed these posts and then was on Facebook, and noticed that a couple of my young Asian Facebook friends had joined a group by this name:

    white parent: A=A, B=B, C=C etc, asian parent A=C, B=D, C=F

    Just a moment of levity here.

    In response to Sharon, I think there WAS a lot of magical thinking about small schools in the past — both from Bill Gates and his peeps, and from “progressives” who are not on board with Bill Gates’ de facto running our nation’s educational system.

    But all you have to do is look at San Francisco high schools to realize it’s not that simple (nothing is EVER that simple).

    Below are San Francisco’s general-ed high schools and their APIs. All schools not otherwise designated are non-charter public schools with non-magnet, lottery
    admission. All information is for the 2008-09 school year.

    1. Lowell (academic magnet)/2,638 students/API 949
    2. G. Washington/2,400 students/API 785
    3. School of the Arts/Academy of Arts & Sciences/965 total students/combined API 781
    (Note: SOTA is an arts magnet that admits by audition; AAS is a general-ed lottery admission school; their student population and API are reported as one
    4. Galileo/2,031 students/API 757
    5. A. Lincoln/2,500 students/API 751
    6. Balboa/1,128 students/API 745
    7. Raoul Wallenberg/637 students/API 744
    8. Gateway Charter/476 students/API 743
    9. Metro Arts & Tech Charter (Envision)/209 students/API 629
    10. Leadership Charter (Small School by Design)/245 students/API 618
    11. Phillip & Sala Burton/939 students/API 615
    12. City Arts & Tech Charter (Envision)/354 students/API 610
    13. International Studies Academy (grades 6-12)/531 students/API 590
    14. Mission/859 students/API 555
    15. John O’Connell/666 students/API 550
    16. Thurgood Marshall/713 students/API 518
    17. June Jordan School for Equity (Small School by Design)/274 students/API 504

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    So as far as producing the best academic and social outcome for kids — perhaps rather than looking at the size of the school, or even a uniform class size — the figure we should be evaluating is the proportion of #adults/#kids, over time, with the adults being a type that is specifically defined. The adults would need to be the type that is a mature, consistent force in the kids’ lives. They would also need to have the capability and willingness to transmit middle class values to the children, regardless of the socioeconomic class their income has placed them in, the language they speak, or their cultural background.

    I would say that in lieu of the child having two adults in their lives of the type described above, they should be provided with a classroom adult/child ratio at least as low as 1:10 — that is if we’re going to be serious about shifting the scene.

    In the home life, any of the following combination of parental figures would probably be fine, as long as they both are consistently devoted to rearing the child from day one and are capable of transmitting middle class values: mother/father, divorced couple (but still highly functional re child rearing), mother/mother, father/father, mother/grandmother (or aunt or uncle), consistent foster parent/consistent adult mentor, or others along that line.

    This is just my personal fantasy about the “it takes a village” thing. But hey, some people actually propose that the only way to fix the problem is to send all inner-city children to boarding schools like the SEED schools.

    By the way, a good book about the class differences in parenting styles is “Unequal Childhoods” by Annette Lareau.

  • Union Supporter-But

    I read “Unequal Childhoods” and I have to say that in the book race did not matter as much as socioeconomic status. Also, the poorer the families the less they worked with the school because of the threat or fear of reporting to social services. And I believe that for many schools that is true.

    I think what sets Lincoln apart is that the families are poor, often very, very poor with poor literacy, just as those poor families studied in the book. Here is the difference in my estimation. Lincoln culturally aware of the their students families. They don’t pander, make excuses or threaten. They simply ask their questions in a culturally appropriate manner and work around the problems. An example, without threatening they ask if there is someone at home to help with homework, no? The child will need to do homework at school, after school hours so that someone can help. A child has problems with their eyesight – does the family have insurance? No, the school or school volunteers help find where the child can get glasses.

    Now, let’s take a large flatland school (no names for fear of offending) – an African American mother is asked if there is someone in the house who can help with homework – parent often is offended that we are calling her stupid – we are not even implying that she is stupid we are gathering information to help the student. We have a group of teachers and teachers-in-training who can help D’Ante with his homework. He needs to come to room 313 everyday after school and he can do his homework. We also have computers to help with his report and the library is also open to help. Parent responds that she has to pick him up by 3 pm. We ask how can we work together to help D’Ante with his homework and we are told that we have him 6 hours everyday and that if we were good enough we could teach him in those 6 hours.

    I don’t know how we are going to get past the cultural differences that families have for their expectations about the learning needs of the students. Even the teachers who want to stay after school to help are battling against the after school programs who will not allow students to work with their classroom teacher from 3 – 4 PM and then have students join the program because too many students are out getting into trouble and then going to the program.

    There has to be ways to meet the needs of the family in culturally sensitive ways while making sure that the students are learning at very high levels. Two years of attitudes of the Lincoln parents in their second grade student and two years of attitudes of D’Andre’s mom will give you a learning gap of about four to five school years in learning. If the students are not reading fluently by the middle of grade four, statistically speaking, the student has an over 80% chance of being a high school drop out.

  • Nextset

    And exactly why is any of this our problem?

    If the kids don’t cut it – in the six hours you do have them – and they wind up with deficits (like being unable to read) they are supposed to be deselected for college prep and sent to programs more suitable, like Bud Driving, if they are suitable for that.

    There is no future in chasing people down the street shouting at them that they have to change and they have to do their homework because you say so. If the students and their families cannot perform the school’s academic requirements, get them out of the academic tracks & campuses and away from those students who do.

    Let people be free to live as they select. It is more efficient and a better use of the limited school budget. What you should do is make the process transparent so there is never any ambiguity as to how everybody is doing and where they are going to be next year (as in out of here and over there).

    if people want to change and want assistance in doing so make that help easy to find. Stop trying to force feed what is not to the taste of the consumers.

  • Nextset

    “Bus Driving” in para 2. Actually there are any number of occupations for people with the skills and interests for them that require little or no college prep education. Our public schools should have a strong vocation ed component which requires less investment and a weaker college prep component which takes a greatly disproportionate investment into a smaller number of people. The role of public school is foremost to create a safety net for the proletariat – to make them self sufficient to the level that they never become unemployable. In that, OUSD is failing. To many of the primary school students reach 18 without the ability to reasonably maintain employment and survive in this economy. if it weren’t for welfare programs they’d be living like in Calcutta.

  • Caroline

    It would be AWFULLY tempting for a teacher to adopt that attitude, I have to say, Nextset.

    But instead, teachers get blamed for not successfully chasing students down the street shouting at them that they have to change and they have to do their homework. And it’s your political compatriots who initiated the blaming — GW Bush with his “soft bigotry of low expectations” line — so could you please tell THEM your views on this? Unfortunately, the “neo-liberals,” including (I’m sad to say) the Obama administration, have adopted that attitude too.

    Though actually, I think that teacher-blaming is insincere and it’s just a ploy to weaken public education and clear the way for privatization.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: I agree that there is a deliberate campaign to destroy public education. I think it is near the end stages, though. It’s been underway for 40 years.

    I don’t have low expectations. I think it’s fun to take a student and push them beyond what they thought they were capable of. But it’s wrong to deliberately set people up for failure. We don’t need to put people in college prep when they want no part of it and they have real potential for navigating a half million dollar bus through downtown rush hour traffic in San Francisco.

    And sometime shortly after puberty public school students should have to choose by their behavior and performance if they want to be at a college prep campus or elsewhere in Voc Ed. Just like in Europe.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Caroline, I always appreciate your point of view on here, and I am completely in agreement that the right-wing AND the neo-liberals have had it in for public education and the teachers’ unions all along, whatever their rhetoric.

    However, I do believe that the “soft bigotry of low expectations” line resonated for Bush because there is some kernals of truth to it.

    As a teacher, I believe it is my job to hold two often competing states of mind simultaneously: 1) Deep empathy and understanding of where my students are coming from, AND 2) a rigorous set of expectations attached to positive and negative consequences that will prepare them for future school, work and life.

    Reality is, though — and I see this at the younger grades in my childrens’ schools as well — it is quite easy over time to lower expectations steadily, even unwittingly, until you are moving children through the system despite a lack of growth or accountability.

    In the public schools I attended, taught at, and my children attend, I have seen well-meaning teachers and administrators frequently lower their expectations for minority and low-income students, in terms of academics and behavior. Often, these teachers were white and full of “white guilt”, but not always; one of my kids’ elementary school principals is an African American woman who simply can not bring herself to discipline troubled children because she is TOO aware of the pain and suffering in their home lives.

    Some lowering of expectations is inevitable: We have to teach kids where they are, in terms of making curriculum fit previous learning. No matter how old you are, you have to learn your letters before you can read, etc.

    However, some of this lowering is just misplaced sympathy (as opposed to empathy). Most of us know we don’t help a troubled kid by being too soft, but we all slip up sometimes, because we have a heart.

    After all, do YOU want to be the principal telling a foster care kid with cigarette burns on their neck who has missed half the semester they can’t go to the next grade with their peers because they never learned fractions, grammer, etc.? Do you want to keep a senior from walking the stage when you know that kid was miseducated for 12 years as they bounced through 30 ghetto schools in 5 cities up to the point they entered your classroom and they worked hard all semester but still failed every grade-level test? Is it easy to make an 8-year-old boy sit in his chair for an hour when you know from his IEP that he was born addicted to crack? You can let him run and stand all year, but that won’t help him.

    If there’s one thing that maddens me about the national debate on education, it is the endless simplifications of what are insanely complex issues. That’s why I get so made at Nextset sometimes; he is all about black and white analysis. (Although, I’m glad to see he now says we *may* avoid a depression after all!)

    We don’t need to be paralyzed by complexity, but to ignore it is to simply polemicize based on pre-formed political and corporate agendas. And yes, Caroline, liberals like me — and you? — have them as well.

  • abetteroakland

    Asian students know that their families prize education. When your parents work long hours, 6-7 days a week and are saving for your college from birth, it is your “job” to do well in school. No excuses.

    Some Asian families come from countries where a good public school education is not available; only the rich send their kids to school. Going to school is a privilege that should not be wasted.

    I also think Asian students, regardless of income, benefit from a higher likelihood of living in a 2 parent homes and having a large extended family. I’m not saying that other cultures don’t love their children the same but it certainly is an advantage if a child’s personal village is behind him.

    Congratulations Lincoln School. Regardless the reason, it is a terrific achievement.

  • Nextset

    I don’t make the connection between having a rotten childhood and excusing basic discipline. If anything the messed over kids need more discipline.

    Discipline is not evil, it’s not hurtful, it’s not punishment. It can be as simple as taking the fruit cup away from a student who is loud at the lunch service. Or as major as expulstion and transfer to alternative schools. I see discipline a critical as teaching the students that fire burns.

    Last night I had dinner with a friend who just terminated a college student from her (entry level professional) job. We discussed the case and it’s clear to me that this person should have been dismissed earlier. There had been two significant incidents of irresponsibility in the 6 months she’d been employed. The last thing she did was making false entries in records to cover up her failure to do her work. Rather than fire her outright for dishonesty she was allowed to resign during the confrontation upon the discovery of the false entries (she recorded completion of a large number of customer transactions that were never done and couldn’t be done after the recordation). The silly girl resigned then demanded a meeting with top management to protest. That move will now result in documentation of the dishonesty beyond the initial discovery which in turn will surely lead to her blacklisting in the industry. She will never work in the field again. No one is surprised at her compounding the damage because she was known for poor judgement in the first place which is why she should never have been allowed to remain this long.

    So we had a conversation about how bad things are with the generation of workers compared to previous ones, how they turn early mistakes and what could have been survivable bumps in their careers into career ending episodes. There is a notable lack of even basic discipline and prudence. And of course the fired worker is a single mother trying to get through college… Did I say “bad judgement”?

    The lack of basic discipline from the high school experience, discipline that should have come from the school, directly and quickly leads to unemployment, career limitation and housing problems/lower living standards and worse. I can see it as I deal with people on a daily basis. My generation in the East Bay Public Schools learned much better than the 20 somethings we hire and fire now. These problems shouldn’t be happening on this scale.

    Even the young people who are not acute in discipline are so inured to the behavior they are not effective in reacting to it. They are too likely to tolerate it in others, so they are still subpar workers.

    The don’t seem to get it that dishonesty on or off the job is incompatible with a responsible position and you will be terminated (in jobs involving trust and discretion) whenever you can’t be trusted. MySpace and Facebook antics are an issue.

    It seems the best way to manage now is to not hire public school products (at least on a school by school basis). Eagle Scouts are identified and given VIP status as job applicants – even as grad students.

    Brave New World.

  • D

    I actually attended Lincoln Elementary School in the 1990s – I am going to keep this short and sweet.

    Lincoln Elementary was (and is) a wonderful school because of its diversity. While it is 92% Asian, we, as students of all races and ethnicities (although a bit more integration would have been positive), were exposed to the traditions, cultures, and beliefs of the world. In 3rd grade, I had a teacher who took our class on more that seven field trips and had a Native American author come to class to discuss his childrens book – “This Land is My Land” by George Littlechild. I was exposed to Algebra in 4th grade because of this school and was on CNN because of my involvement in the Chinese Bamboo Orchestra.

    Lincoln was wonderful because of its teachers, its leaders, and its use of resources.

    It certainly was not simply because it was 92% Asian and Asians are high-performers. This is too simplistic an explanation to deserve retort except to say that I am a Black male who went on to go to schools without resources and saw the education gap. However, because of my initial start, I went to on to college and am currently finishing law school.

    We need more schools where teachers and admin are as committed to the students as the folks at Lincoln are.