Those who know me know that I am often critical of many, many things in OUSD. But I would like to talk for a moment about something – I am not saying that there is a solution for what I am going to mention, and I am certainly not going to tell you that this is happening in every Oakland public school classroom because it is not. But I want to talk about something that I am so incredibly frustrated with that I am fuming, at myself, at our society, at the district, at some parents – oh, hell today I am frustrated with the world about it.

I am working toward my teaching credential. I have passed the CSET and earn high math scores on the exam. I am taking a “Teaching Elementary Students Mathematics” course at Holy Names University and I voluntarily work with a group of students in math who are in fourth and fifth grade in an Oakland public school. These students VOLUNTARILY come to the morning class from 7:30 AM – 8:30 AM to get the extra help they need. Their benchmark tests are at about 50%. Meaning they get half right and half wrong. And, that’s only half of the story.

If these same students are given one problem on a paper – the SAME EXACT problem they missed on the benchmark test. They solve the problem and give the answer with 100% of the time – or very close to 100% of the time. And, when solving, unlike the benchmark test, there is no multiple choice. So, I think maybe someone helped them. I ask them to explain their calculations and why they think their calculations are right. They verbally explain the answers to me, the steps they took to get to the answers, and the general “formula” or “rule” that makes it so. For example, “I know that the angles of a triangle must add up to 180 degrees. So I subtract the side that I am given from 180. Then I know that because there is a square in the corner, that means 90 degrees, so I subtract 90 degrees and I get 47 degrees. Wasn’t that right?” Well, of course it’s right. Yet, for the SAME EXACT problem on the test, worded in the same exact way, they marked 90 degrees.

We’ve gone over test taking techniques; we’ve used the cross off the obviously wrong answers; we’ve talked about working the problem right there in the test book, looking at only one problem at a time.

So I ask the students if they know the material – yes, they do. They are happy to show me. But when the high stakes test comes something happens. Today, we did no calculations, we just talked. Why do you think that you are not able to show what you know on the tests? I ask, here are some of the responses: I always mess up on tests. All my other teachers said I was bad in math so I guess I am really bad in math. I see all the questions and I just flip out. I see all of the problems and think I will run out of time. I see all of the problems and I pick the hard ones first and I get stuck and don’t have time for no more problems. What is math good for anyway? I see four answers and I just pick one. And the comments go on and on.

So, I am not offering up excuses. I am not offering up solutions. I am telling you that these kids know the math on that test and if you came in and asked each student to show you his or her work on the white board, the problem presented just as written on the test, nearly every child in my group of 14 would calculate the answer and put a box around it.

Thanks for taking the time to read – it’s all about so much more than I understand right now.

]]>Contoversial Philosophy? Really…

Which experience are you referring to?

]]>I think it does your actual message more harm than good–we are not meeting the needs of the majority of the students.

Lacy has a very valid point, one based in reality. Yet it seems like you ignored most of her post just to reiterate your controversial philosophy. I think it would do us all well if you stopped hijacking every topic just to repeat the same tired message.

What do you have to say about Lacy’s description of her experiences that completely contradict your world view? What proof do you have that her experience is either extremely rare or not true?

]]>Our current system condemns students to the dust bin if they are in the wrong neighborhood because there is no selection process to spot potential stars and bring them up – all are considered equal and put in equally bad schools. I would have schools for the different groups with college prep in some and remedial & voc ed in others. I would keep the promiscious, violent, insolent, insubordinate and criminally inclined out of the main schools and give them a reform type school of their own (and encourage them to drop out). This would be better for the teachers and better for the students that are going to work for a living. Most of the public school kids will never graduate from any college. The High school diploma is the terminal degree. We need to do more for the average public school kid and not spend too much money on the bottom 25% who aren’t in school to learn or graduate.

San Francisco Unified has Lowell High, why doesn’t OUSD have a similar high school?

]]>I have personally witnessed what the right kind of intervention does for low-achieving students in Oakland. Most of my students are not low-performing because they are “dull”, they are low-performing because they lack the confidence to see themselves as successful, or because their personal lives are so wracked with difficulty. When these young people are equipped with academic and emotional support, they truly do amazing things (i.e. the 70% CAHSEE pass rate at my continuation high school programs).

You’re right: school equity is not as simple as dumping money into programs for low-performing students. We have to be strategic about investing in innovative programs that support ALL of students’ needs.

]]>I always assumed that the acheivement gap was really a simple proxy for socio economic status or family income and education, and that it would virtually disappear if the students were matched along those lines. However, I remember an ‘expert’ speaking at my child’s elementary school and debunking my assumption. He stated that the gap exists for certain groups even when controlling for income/parental education.

Does anyone know what the research has shown regarding why this gap exists and how to remedy it? Along those lines, Redwood Heights is often touted to have bridged that gap. Is that true, and if so, how have they done it?

]]>Berkeley can have a top notch high school program for the right side of the curve with a functional remedial and vocational program for the left. They should be on different campuses. Only a certain portion of the left siders want to be in a school anyway.

To wreck a school system chasing down the dull students and throwing money at them on programs they do not want and can’t use is folly, Leftist irrational folly. Which is what Berkeley is known for as a town.

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