Oakland school to be showcased for success of black students

Think College Now, a public elementary school in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, is largely Latino — 68 percent in 2008-09. But tomorrow, the high performing, 120 265-student school will be showcased at a one-day institute in Sacramento that will feature “schools where African American students are succeeding.”

The thing is, I can’t tell you exactly how the school’s African-American students have scored on state tests. Its African-American student population was 34 in 2008-09, about 13 percent of the school enrollment. Which means the group was too small for the school to report its average API score.

If you were organizing a conference to share ideas about improving the education of African-American children, which schools would you invite?

Here is the release on the event:

This one-day institute in Sacramento will feature educators from schools in California where African American students are succeeding. Showcased schools include 54th Street Elementary in Los Angeles, Think College Now Elementary in Oakland and Gahr High School in Artesia.

Educators from Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento City, San Lorenzo, Los Angeles, ABC, San Bernardino City, Modesto City and Philadelphia, PA school districts and the University of California, Davis and California State University, Fresno present practical, hands-on information about elementary, middle and high school programs that are working.

The institute is being presented by Total School Solutions (TSS), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) as a pre-conference to the annual CAAASA conference.

For information about specific topics and presenters and to register please click here. You may also email to gdimalanta@totalschoolsolutions.net or call (707) 422-6393.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Jessica Stewart


    Think College Now has more than 250 students, not just the 120 that you mentioned. This is confirmed even in the link that you listed here in this article.

  • Katy Murphy

    You are absolutely right. I was looking back at enrollment trends over previous years, which is how the error must have happened. I thought that number sounded low…

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    That means 34 out of the school’s 266 students are African-American. Which some of you might have seen for yourself already.

  • Nextset

    I thought about that question for a bit. Which Black Students are we talking about? Are they Nigerian Immigrants (or Eithiopian?), are they Mixed/Mullato? are they from alongside a large military base? are they 4th generation fatherless Ghetto Blacks from Single Mothers? Are they “talented tenth”, perhaps 4th generation college educated?

    I’ve worked with all these. They are quite different. And more interesting, the various subgroups don’t exactly like each other (and I’m putting that mildly). They like each other best when uniting against a common perceived enemy. You could get them together with a certain menu.

    “What is working” may largely depend on exactly who you are talking about at the moment. It’s a larger subject that it seems. If you try to use your wonderful ideas from one subgroup with one of the others you are going to have problems.

    And like others in the Brave New World, the subgroups are perhaps segregating themselves and mating with/marrying like. Outsiders assume “blacks” are the same and are repeatedly put off by the differences.

  • Filly

    TCN gets a lot of press. I don’t deny their success. However, the principal/leader is a real gogetter and a tireless worker. There is a lot of extra funding that goes into this school. If there are just 34 of 264 who are African American, that’s about 15% of the school population. I can’t really see how it’s a school that has such a low percentage could be a model/showcase school. What about Grass Valley with good scores and a very high African American population? What about more mixed schools? I’d love a more thorough treatment of TCN, their support services to teachers as well as students and families, the TCN budget and how that compares to regular schools. I resent the strong focus towards TCN when there is a disparity between that school and other school sites in Oakland.

  • Jessica Stewart


    Are you suggesting that TCN’s principal should be less of a go-getter and tireless worker so as to be more like other schools? Working hard to provide support services and excellent teachers for students to me seems like something that I’d hope every school was doing and is surely why the students there are so successful.

    Other successful schools like Grass Valley are likely doing similar things to see success with their students.

  • Nextset

    Interesting article from the Times:



    It would appear that segregation of the sexes and perhaps races are on the list in Ghetto London. And perhaps an Alpha Female in Charge.

    It would be interesting to see these tactics used here. My first thought in reading about the physical condition of the school (nice) is how do they keep the students and intruders from stealing and destroying everything? The reference to the “housekeepers” and the flow of Intel from them to administration about anything going on with the kids (girl “sick” in bathroom?) was good. In a good school the walls have ears connected to the principal.

  • Oakland Educator

    Sankofa Academy, when under the leadership of Danielle Neves, made significant gains and serves a population that is 98% African American. Folks should definitely check out what they’re doing because it boils down to some amazing teaching! Unfortunately, it is unclear whether that will continue because their new principal is inexperienced and has not been able to maintain the high quality professional development that was provided under the previous principal. Regardless, Sankofa speaks to the fact that great teachers with great leaders produce exceptional outcomes for kids!!

  • Filly

    Wow, Ms. Stewart, that’s not what I suggested at all. I was implying that it would be difficult to replicate. You seem defensive about TCN. The principal does work hard as do other school principals. However the funding and freedom he has is different than at other sites. I resent how much attention TCN gets without showing the hard work of fundraising, the actual budget he works with, the support services that teachers get, etc. We don’t all get that. I resent that. Actually Grass Valley doesn’t have the support services that TCN has. We don’t get overnight retreats at the beginning of the year. We don’t get extra days (over the contractual amount) to plan at the beginning of the year. We don’t get any of that. TCN does and it would be great to find out what exactly TCN has and gives to its community instead of lauding it every other day. That is what I’m saying. It makes it easier to replicate and aim towards. I’m sorry you saw it as a negative. I see it as an equity issue.

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

    Filly: Think College Now is a member school in the network of the Oakland Schools Foundation (until very recently it was called the Oakland Small Schools Foundation) and this accounts for some of their supplementary funding. According to their Form 990 for 2006 (EIN = 432014630), TCN received $203,573 of the $546,484 allocated by the organization. OSSF gave grants to 17 schools that year, but TCN received the largest one by far, 37% of the total.

    According to the Form 990 for 2007, 28 schools received OSSF funding that year. TCN was given received either $8,240 or $307,790. I can’t be sure because the items listed in the two columns of Cash Grants and Allocations don’t line up cleanly. The organization spent $1,208,363 on the 28 schools that year.

    Perhaps Ms. Stewart can offer us some assistance with understanding TCN’s OSF’s grants, or find someone to post about them here. I’ve been studying the interconnections of people in leadership positions at some of Oakland’s ed-involved organizations and noticed that she serves in a leadership capacity for GO Public Schools (as co-chair of the Board Agenda Team) as does David Silver, the principal of TCN (as co-chair of the Results Based Budgeting Issue). The founder of GO Public Schools, Johnathan Klein, was also OSSF’s founding director from 2003 to 2006 and is currently listed as president of its board.

    *See the National Center for Charitable Statistics

  • Filly

    Ms. Higgins, thank you for this information. Jonathan Klein, if it’s the same guy, was also OUSD public information officer recently. It’s important that we know all of the facts before we try to emulate a system. Thank you again!

  • Katy Murphy

    Think College Now — and many other schools — pay for these fundraising/grant-writing/marketing services of the Oakland (Small) Schools Foundation. Some more than others. Search the board minutes, for example, and you’ll find contracts like this:

    Approval by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract between District and Oakland Small Schools Foundation, for the latter to provide school fund service and individual giving campaign work; grant writing; events planning; and resources coaching/program integration, alignment and budget work at Think College Now School for the period of December 18, 2008 through June 12, 2009, in an amount not to exceed $62,000.00.

    I wonder how the grant awards play out when one foundation is potentially assisting a number of schools in the same competition. And what if a school can’t afford to pay for fundraising services? Is that school at a big disadvantage (assuming it finds someone to apply for a grant) because it doesn’t have an inside track and/or established relationship with a particular funder? Does it make sense to have so many individual schools competing with one another for sorely needed outside funding?

    I’d really like to understand how it works, and the advantages/disadvantages of this model. When I talked to the OSF director, Holly Babe Foust, last fall (who is leaving this spring), she said the organization was considering alternative approaches as it prepared to expand.

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

    Also, Total School Solutions, the organization which is sponsoring the “institute,” looks to be one of the MANY for-profit consulting companies which has sprouted up in recent years. A lot of opportunistic businesses are taking advantage of the destabilization produced by NCLB and the general current ed deform movement. Districts barely know which end is up, so they are susceptible to people who want to suck out some of their funding. This is one facet of how public education can be privatized.

    You’ll note that the program is described as a “pre-conference” to the annual conference for the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA). Since the contact info is for someone at TSS, my guess is that the event is one of their marketing ploys. Perhaps someone connected to TCN knows someone who works for TSS, or TSS made contact with TCN if they ever did consulting work for OUSD. They’ll get to greet the visiting administrators and try to sell their wares.

    From the TSS website: “Total School Solutions is a full-service firm serving the interests of school districts and the students. We offer a comprehensive slate of services in the areas of education, budget and finance, facilities and planning, human resources, leadership and governance, operations, technology, professional development and legal compliance training. We help design solutions to enhance school districts’ performance, productivity, and viability.”

    It’s just the type of thing to leech off school district money. It would drive the OEA folks nuts.

    Of course, my explanation for why a school with so few African American students has been invited to an event showcasing CA schools where African American students are succeeding could be on the wrong track entirely, so I would be happy to be corrected. More transparency is always needed.

  • A.Byrd

    I love reading articles like this, but I also dislike reading articles like this due to the replies that disturb me. As a Black educator in Oakland, an Oakland native, and a product of OUSD myself, I am offended by the lengthy statement regarding “which Black students are we talking about?” DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

    First of all, what are 4th generation fatherless ghetto Blacks from single-mothers? How dare you throw all of those stereotypes together into one question. Instead of analyzing the topic, you have spun off onto another tangent…Are you even African-American yourself to say that “the various groups don’t exactly like each other”? How do you know, because a text book told you so?

    Now to enlighten some of you…have you ever heard of the one-drop rule? We don’t care about what type of Black someone is, as you would put it. We care about success. Those Black students at TCN are succeeding even though they are clearly the minority. That’s all that matters to us. Also just so you know, “talented 10th”, 4th generation college educated” don’t seek out predominately Latino schools in the flatlands of East Oakland to send their kids to, even if it has high test scores.

    To second what someone mentioned prior, Grass Valley is a high-performing elementary school in Oakland. As a matter of fact it ranks high compared to other schools also 99% Black in the state and probably in the country. My son attends school there and I also have taught there myself. Why did I choose Grass Valley? Well I actually wanted my child to be around other Blacks who were successful. I didn’t want him to attend a school where he was a minority and to grow up with the thinking that he couldn’t be around his own race in order to be successful. He’s a GATE student, so I guess that having a parent from the ghetto of East Oakland being a first generation college educated person didn’t corrupt him afterall…By the way Grass Valley is located in the hills, but the majority of the students do not live in that neighborhood.

    In closing, we need to stop selling our minority students short. I don’t care what neighborhood they come from, who their parents are, etc. Those students can be successful and deserve to be taught content that’s not watered-down. I am sure that TCN is getting this type of positive press, because for years “Black students have been left behind” even at high-performing schools. Good job TCN, kudos from me to you! Keep up the good work :-)

  • Oakland Teacher

    While I hate to come in on the side of censorship, posting #7 should not be included in this thread. It does not seem appropriate that any individual (teacher or administrator) should be discussed like that without it being the main point of the thread itself. This makes it too easy to use this forum for slamming individuals, and that is not what it is for. As a teacher, I would hate to think that anyone could just post my name up here in a negative or less than flattering way.

  • Nextset

    A, Byrd: It’s the High Schools that tell the tale. Primary Schools do not experience the “difference” as much. The differences are most visible during/after puberty.

    As far as the black groups not liking each other – that’s beyond debate.

    Please tell more about Grass Valley, where is it? Where are the students drawn from? How large, what grades, etc.

    As far as the “How Dare You”.. nonsense – If you can’t stand public discourse, too bad for you. You don’t get to direct other people’s lines of inquiry or dialog. You sure can’t shout them down. That’s Ghetto thinking, and Ghetto behavior. Work on that. Likewise it is on no concern of mine that you get offended. Ghetto people get offended whenever the wind blows and no one cares except those who cater to them. I sure don’t. Be offended, and get back to the conversation with your side of the debate, your experiences, your point of view. You seem to work in that insular culture called “Education” where you don’t have to make it in a competitive market of any sort. So I’m not surprised at your reaction in public discourse. Imagine if we were in a panel discussion and you piped up with how “offended” you were all the time. Which some people do (ghetto & liberals). You’d look foolish and weak.

    Yes it really matters which black folks we are talking about. What one group works with the others can’t. And yes, they attack each other, sometimes murderously (“acting white”, etc) which is why upper class black families won’t let their kids near ghetto blacks and in fact let the charge in white flight moves to white neighborhoods in the ’60s and ’70s. The other reason is that they didn’t want their kids contaminated with ghetto values and mores. And let’s talk intermarriage and why, and the resulting mixed kids.

    But not at the moment. Have a good day.

    Brave New World.

  • Katy Murphy

    I disagree about comment #7. Principals are public figures, and while they shouldn’t be called names or personally attacked, their performance as school leaders is fair game as far as I’m concerned.

  • AC Mom

    It was already mentioned that there is no subgroup data for Af/Am students at TCN; but, Grass Valley, Chabot, Peralta, and Kaiser each posted scores above 800 for the Af/Am population. Glenview, Crocker, Burkhalter, Franklin, Carl Munk, Millsmont, Berkeley Maynard, Cleveland are closing in on that goal (20 or fewer points). So, to respond to your question, I would invite each of those schools to a conference to share their experiences with other educational professionals.

  • Kathy Rieves

    In response to AC Mom – I am a parent of a 6th grade daughter who just graudated from Peralta Elementary School. We are Af/Am and I, as well as Katy and others, know the Af/Am culture at Peralta and how those students helped Peralta to receive the Title 1 award. Now my daughter attends Claremont which is, by some people, not where she should be. Well guess what? She is still a GATE student with a 4.0 GPA. I chose Peralta for her when she entered kindergarten simply because I wanted her to have an all around education. This school has some of the best teachers and Principal you could find in OUSD. I would not try to compare TCN with Peralta simply because there is a totally different climate at those schools. Nevertheless, we would be happy to share our experiences with others who want to know how schools with a large Af/Am population can achieve success.

  • A. Byrd


    Clearly you are intimidated by an “educated Black” who speaks her mind. Is calling me “ghetto” the best that you can do? Who appears weak now? Work on your rebuttals and get back to me. I think that your response is hilarious, thanks for making me laugh today! You are the very reason why I decided to become a teacher. I wanted to help my minority students succeed in a country with persons like yourself…judgmental, close-minded, and somewhat out of touch with reality by the use of their stereotypes.

    Sorry to disappoint you, but slavery has ended. You don’t get to play the race card with me :-) Yea, there’s all types of Blacks, as with any race. Again, KUDOS to TCN for helping our Black students succeed, whatever type of Black you may consider them, and the Latino students as well. Yay, for public education!!! Review my comment on #13 with my reply to this debate. It remains the same.

    I am happy to attend a panel discussion with you any day. Thank you kindly for the invite. By the way, there are more people in this country who are “unsuccessful Whites” considering they are the majority and all. I am thankful to know that all people in this world are not as confused as you. In closing, February is Black History Month…not Black sub-group month.

    P.S. All of the Liberals want you to have a Terrific Thursday!

  • Oakland Educator

    To Oakland Teacher: My posting was in response to the prompt that Katy asked at the end of her article: If you were organizing a conference to share ideas about improving the education of African-American children, which schools would you invite? It was not meant to “slam” anyone, and I am sorry if you were offended. You should check out Sankofa because they really are amazing. My point in meantioning the previous and current leaders was two-fold: first, I wanted to give credit where it is due, which is to the previous leadership, and second, I wanted to comment on how crucial solid leadership and teaching are in impacting the achievement of kids. Sometimes the policies in Oakland and the design of certain jobs are such that the work becomes unsustainable, and I think is extremely important to keep pointing out that great teaching and great leadership are the things that make the difference. We all have to come together to support and sustain this greatness when it happens so that our kids are provided with quality education. Sankofa teachers are an example of this greatness.

  • Oakland Parent/Teacher

    Oakland Educator, thank you for providing clarification. And yes, I agree, we do need to acknowledge the hard work of our teachers and leaders.

    Now Katy, I agree that as public officials, school administrators are open to evaluation and scrutiny, especially given the huge impact that leadership has on schools. However, this forum is not legitimate! It is based on opinion alone, and not backed by data. I’ve witnessed school leaders be raked over the coals on your blog! Good people, who I know work tirelessly to the detriment of their health and their personal/family life, only to be slashed to pieces by someone on your blog with an obvious grudge. And all of these comments are one sided opinions and only speak to a tiny segment of their job. There is an obvious lack of balance; after all there are two sides to every story. And underneath every action, there is a motive. Not to mention anonymity allows people to be careless and mean-spirit because their identity is protected. (Nextset is a primary example of this) We expect school leaders to be strong and bold. We expect them to hold the line and fight for what students need and deserve. But I would argue that this task is difficult with a forum that can literally annihilate one’s spirit, and more importantly, destroy the confidence a school community has in its leader. All it takes is a mere suggestion and the seed of doubt is planted. Unfortunately, slander is one of the risks school leaders have to deal with when they assume a public position. But that does NOT make it right! This country has freedom of speech, but is also has due process rights for a reason.

  • Katy Murphy

    I see what you’re saying, I really do. Sometimes it’s hard for me to know exactly where to draw the line (though I avoid censoring comments as much as possible). In this case, however, I don’t believe the commenter came close.

    Now, back to the thread…

  • Oakland Teacher

    I still hold that it was unnecessary and counterproductive to be comparing one principal to another, when the new principal was not the subject. The thread was about African American student success; it would have been enough to mention that the school itself had a real record of success. Now, if the topic itself was problems with a school’s leadership (as we saw here last year with another school), then all bets are off.

    Yes, school leadership is crucial. I can also say from (unwanted) experience, that sometimes a school leader can be perceived as doing well, but inside the school is crumbling. Nexos really have no idea of what goes on in most schools. But I still hold that unless someone in particular is being discussed, it is not okay to just put out criticisms of random people. We all (teachers and site principals) have hard enough jobs without having to face that with our morning coffee.

    I do disagree that one comment would lead to seeds of doubt. I give teachers/parents more credit than that. There has to be doubt there already. I really hope this blog is not going to be used as a forum for that. If people need to say something, it should not be hidden inside another message.

  • Nextset

    A. Byrd: Thanks for the feedback. Let’s continue to meet and confer here. It could be fun.

    By the way, can you tell us something about yourself – so we can understand where your point of view comes from? You appear to be black, female, and a public school teacher. What education? Age range? upbringing?

    I don’t expect we will agree on much of anything. That’s all good. The real shock is if we ever do agree on something. And that will happen sometime.
    I don’t encounter many like you in my field. They don’t last very long. You can probably say the same.

    One of the things I do like about Katy’s Blog is the difference between the various posters. In our lives we don’t mingle with the polar opposites. We don’t listen to them either – and if I were to make my points in a room with liberals – and orthodox blacks – they would be unable to retain their composure (chimp out?). Sad but true. Free debate doesn’t exist with liberals, as anyone with experience with CA Universities sees daily.

    Oakland Parent/Teacher mentioned above that I hide behind anonimity. Well, it’s my choice as to when and where I put myself out to strangers. And yours. I would not waste my breath trying to tell a fool to get off the railroad tracks. And I mean that. Been there, done it. I won’t contribute one penny to Haiti either. Why fight evolution in action? My interests are closer to home. In the work I do I can try to fix or save one person at a time. As I get older I’m more picky as to who I really exert for. So no, I’m not interested in more than a form of muttering the emperor has no clothes. Somebody should do it. Other readers here just might get jogged into new lines of thought. Hopefully younger ones.

    You will see when everytime somebody here says “Why oh why are all these bad things happening to us!!”

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    typo on the last line, “You wil see me when…”

  • Miss P.

    Reading this article and some of the post on the subject, I still feel confident in my analysis that this is more of a “money” game than an “education” game. I see now how public education has taken over where non-profit organizations left off.

    In a recession there is supposedly no money to fund the non-profit programs… but we can’t deny the public schools.

    In my experience most of the principles of these new Oakland Small Schools and Charter Schools are very business savvy. They know where and how to get the money. Period. Thank God some positive results are necessary to get this money or our children would be faring much worse. I believe that for most of these principles it is more about creating a comfortable work environment for themselves than actually serving the children. They are egotistical and self serving… so the best you can do is find one that serves themselves well so that your children will actually reap some benefits.

    I worked with one principle who walk through his campus with a confident and somewhat arrogant stride, like he was the big man in charge. However whenever I had a question he would magically disappear, or refer me to his secretary. When his school had no hot water and the children had to eat the same cold bologna and cheese sandwiches for three or four weeks straight, he magically disappeared, out of town on business or family emergency. I found it laughable when the boiler was fixed, he magically reappeared.

    I have experienced another principle that allowed the student bathroom at her school to go without soap for over a year. I know for a fact these were not the conditions of the staff restrooms. Installing internet services throughout the school, or providing the kids with updated technology like a mobile laptop cart was not a top priority here… but the salad bar is a major hit.

    I’m not from Oakland, but I have been around long enough to see what is really going on here. My parents were a part of the “flight” movement of the 80’s. I was raised in some other valley. So I understand very well about the “Grass Valley” mentality, and it saddens me. I am Black, and I have experienced even among my own people a sense of separate… and not equal. It may not be obvious to some people that have been in Oakland most or all of their lives, but I assure you it is quite apparent to someone on the outside looking in.

    I teach here (OUSD), and my children attend school here. That is because I live here, and I refuse to allow stereotypes the power to define me, my children, their level of intelligence, or the quality of their education. I thought about commuting my kids out to New Haven School District (where I graduated from), but then I realized not only should I not have to… I don’t want to. I send my kids to these schools with full knowledge that their education is in my hands. Period.

    As parents, and educators, we simply have to take personal responsibility for the work we do. And I am thankful for every educator out there that is committed to doing what is best for these children, even if if has to be AGAINST all of the the odds.