Four Oakland, two Berkeley schools “exemplary”

Peralta Elementary School, Tribune file photo

Four Oakland elementary schools — Chabot, Montclair, Peralta and Thornhill — are among 484 schools commended by the state this year for their academic achievements and for narrowing the achievement gap. The winners have also agreed to share two “signature practices” with other schools. Chabot and Peralta are located in the Rockridge area, and Montclair and Thornhill are in the hills.

Jefferson and Oxford elementary schools in Berkeley also made the California Distinguished Schools list.

You can find the full list of California Distinguished Schools here. Below is a short summary of the selection process:

Schools were identified for eligibility on the basis of their Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress results, which are the state and federal accountability models, respectively. The applicants were also identified by their success in narrowing the achievement gap that exists between higher-performing and lower-performing students. All applicants underwent a stringent selection process conducted by the California Department of Education with the help of many educators from across the state. Each applicant was required to describe two signature practices that have led to an increase in student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap. Applicants were then selected to receive a thorough site visit to validate the signature practices.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    What a crock. The Gap differences are most prominent at and after puberty. Of course the Educrats continue to use primary school stats to con gullible people into thinking they are producing change. They are not changing anything.

    While it’s nice some of these primary schools have good stats this year, so what? They are primary schools. You don’t “fix” the Gap this way. It’s only been tried for 50 years.

    The Education/Industrial complex wants us to believe in spite of 50 years of throwing money at “The Gap” that if we just continuing throwing a lot more money at it it will magically go away. It hasn’t and it wont.

    Maybe we should throw a lot more discipline at the gap. Those who don’t perform shouldn’t be with those who do. They should go to their own programs more suitable for their talents – “Ditch Digger U” if you will. Or Nursing School, or Psych Tech School, or any number of Voc Programs that don’t require University Level IQ or Academics. If we were realistic with the left side of the Bell Curve we wouldn’t have such a drop out, imprisonment & mortality rate.

    There is no silver bullet or magic cure to this. We are spending too much money on non-productive academic programs & students across the board. So No!, we don’t need to be providing and funding Remedial English at UC Berkeley. Or any of the State Colleges.

    It’s far more important that we fund Driver’s Ed and Training for all (and maybe provide school nurses, etc) and other such baseline programs in our secondary schools than funding extravagant primary & secondary remedial programs for people who don’t “get it” in the normal classrooms.

    We need to center our academic funding around those who take education and not those who don’t – whoever that ends up being from year to year. Get the non-academics out into voc ed. The primary mission of the public schools is to get the proletariat into vocations, not into college (and keep them out of jail and poverty). The right side of the curve can generally take care of themselves. The “extra” public school money we have to work with should be spent more on robust vocational education and not on unwanted or remedial academics.

    And we don’t need to require any college prep courses for a high school diploma, either. That diploma must be available for satisfactory performance on vocational track.

    We are running the public schools like Soviet Factories.

  • Yastrzemski

    Nextset…..while I often admire your honesty here and feel that you have the right to say your peace, you once again put the proverbial foot into the mouth.

    I hope that it is a typo…and you meant to say Nursing AIDES or Home health aids…rather than actual Registered Nurses, not needing a Univeristy Level IQ. Are you kidding???? Nurses now need a Master’s degree to get ahead in a place like Stanford or UCSF, in any other capacity other than a floor nurse.

    Having said that, I think a vocational school is a great idea. Growing up on the East Coast, we had one that 4 or 5 large towns and cities used as a feeder for their kids that were not on the college track. It was a HUGE place, but it was a well-oiled machine that consistently produced some great graduates who do quite well for themselves…plumbers make a lot more than I do teaching!

  • Family_of_Nurses

    Um, Nextset, I’m hoping your screen name doesn’t go on your hospital id bracelet next time the nurse has to insert your catheter.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Nextset: I often agree with at least part of what you write. I know two of these schools. They contacted many people to find out what they could do to help African American students achieve. They knew that some of their African American and Latino students who were not performing well had tested into the gifted (GATE program, yet their scores lagged.

    These schools (at least two of them) taught many of the skills, test taking skills (the answer is there, eliminate the wrong answers, rework the math problem, review the test to make sure you didn’t miss anything), taught lessons in a group instead of individual standards (example teaching fourth grade math with lines, angles, different types of triangle – taught line segments, they why isn’t a line segment a parallel, intersecting or perpendicular line, if the lines don’t touch on the paper HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY ARE INTERSECTING LINES? What have you learned that gives a clue, etc., etc.) and finally, these schools made a concerted effort to teach vocabulary (about 500 new words per grade – science words emphasizing Greek and Latin roots so students could connect the information and make larger words from roots, prefixes and suffixes, mathematics words, literary words, art words).

    The schools in question asked themselves what middle class families talk about routinely – the arts, politics, organized structures around sports (franchises, local, regional, statewide leagues for students including rules, who is paid and who is not), taxes (how they are collected and distributed), math in everyday life (figuring gallons of paint or cubic yards of concrete), everyday science (including help setting up their annual science fair exhibits) and reading (not just novels but non-fiction for information). These schools did not want to take away from students families, but they wanted every student to be exposed to a very, very rich verbal and cultural life during the school year.

    These experiences combined with regular medical care, rest, nutritious food and someone to talk to if there is a problem is how the schools worked to achieve their goals. They have teachers who have more than the average number of years teaching – and not one year 15 times, but teachers who use the years to accumulate and add the experience they have gathered to change their lesson plans, add to their students bank of knowledge and give what many, many white students receive at home as a matter of course.

    To close the gap, sometimes it comes not from a deficit model of what these poor kids need, but from the asset model of what should every child have to have an excellent education. In this way these schools raised the scores of white kids, and raised the scores of students of color even more. These are all feeder kids – feeders to the Cal system, the private university system and the truly educated set of voting citizens.

  • Nextset

    I do mean that RNs are required in the Urban Schools. We used to have them. Urban Schools are all about the proletariat – sorry, it’s true. These students have needs and problems that Ken and Barbie in Piedmont don’t.

    I deal with people who even as young as the early and mid 20s have such problems with dental, medical & psych (self?) neglect that it impairs their ability to maintain relationships, housing and employment. I believe the problems in this area are higher now than in 1965. I believe the charge of the urban public schools is to take the incoming students and by age 18 with or without a diploma get them into shape to survive (or better) in this Brave New World (regardless of who or what their bio-parents are). It’s not that the nurses will be drilling cavities it’s that their work could get the students trained to try to take care of themselves before they walk around with blackened teeth and all the other end stage problems.

    I see the urban public school system as having a principal role in the socialization, training and yes, education of the future bottom 50% of society. That number is really rough. Maybe it’s going to be the bottom 75% now.

    Getting these students to 18 without deadly habits of obesity, addiction, promiscuity, dishonesty, illiteracy and the rest trumps College Prep fantasies which are not suitable for maybe 50% of the urban school student body. What is feasible is good job skills and a solid ladder to vocational and technical occupations from which they can rise further while supporting themselves in the meantime. Our urban schools need to be very obvious and overt in delivering to society trained 18 year olds that aren’t just bait for morticians.

    I am not saying the teachers are social workers but maybe I am saying the schools – the urban schools – do have a mission statement to deal with the common and dangerous issues generally threatening their students’ survival. Yes they need school nurses, more than College Prep which should be available elsewhere for those who want that.

    And at the rate the economy is failing we will quickly be chosing to abandon college prep in favor of something cheaper in these schools. If we continue these layoffs and adjust class sizes to compensate our current model of education delivery will be diluted to the point of ineffectiveness. So I think we will adjust education delivery systems. At least for poor whites (this is already underway).

    Oh and by the way, UC and the State University are headed for sharp decline (perhaps as it did in WWII). Follow the trends out 4 years. The students will never continue to accept the levels of tuition increases already set. You will soon see the student enrollments start to drop. Without the state subsidy you will never have all these college students. And the state is bankrupt until it starts to shed it’s obligations to the welfare state we’ve created. We can have another thread about the colleges, my point is that the taxpayers are through contributing a cent to anyone who wants to go to UC and do Black Studies or any other rad-lib program. If the course of study cannot finance payments on a $50k to 100k student loan, the taxpayers will see that program closed – now.

    Family Of Nurses: Your comment is a cheap shot. Nurses are on the firing line and work daily with the walking wounded in CA society. It’s one thing to tend to aged patients dealing with aging and end of life issues. Another to deal with unemployable addicted, diseased and traumatized working aged people. If nothing is done to turn these urban public schools into factories producing employable and self sufficient people we are all in big trouble. If you don’t like the discussion of what’s wrong with the public schooling around here, what is your suggestion?

  • Nextset

    A poster mentioned something to the effect that every child should have an excellent education.

    Well, No.

    It is a socialist notion that everyone should have (insert value). Paid for by the collective. This is the madness behind Obamacare – a socialist scheme that is unattainable in any free society for long.

    Every person should be able to have (X) if they or thiers can pay for it. The public treasury has no obligation to pay to keep a member of the public alive or happy. That is their problem and the management of that problem is what keeps a society working and productive. When you substitute entitlement for this you are on the way down to a Stalinist nightmare. That is the lesson of history.

    There is no right to education in the US Constitution, that is not what the Federal Government is allowed to do, it’s powers are limited. The states have from time to time set up their own education systems using what resources it pleases them to devote to it at the moment. There is no right to education as part of some bargain we the people have made to establish the government.

    In CA the Grade 1 to 12 system we have created was intended to provide even the lowest citizen the basics with which to make their way in the world (to which people want to add Algebra and College Prep & unlimited Special Ed now). To say that individuals have some “right” to anything they want or think they need at public expense is silly. They have the right to pay for it themselves.

  • Nextset

    Union Supporter: I reread your post. Sounds good. But the taxpayers are not interested in spending unbalanced amounts of money to try to give some people a middle class upbringing their own families won’t. All for the purpose of “fixing” certain people for political reasons (racial balances) – whether they welcome the fixing or not. And from what I read here, the objects of your attention aren’t too interested. The new immigrants really are, try the Nigerians, Ethiopians and Indians. These efforts I read about here merely promote the existing gaps while costing money that should be spent on School RNs and Vocational Programs including a complete Driver’s Ed and Training so that every child who can (diploma or not) finishes with a driver’s license.

    You can’t get the taxpayers to agree to use their hard earned money to subsidize your racial favorites. They have their own favorites. It’s called family. At some point your budget per child is going to have to be equalized to prevent you from politically favoring “your” race at the expense of others. Excess money you have to raise (as Piedmont Unified does).

    A better way to proceed is to make reasonable budget decisions among the various school programs and limit college prep to those with demonstrated aptitude to the extent you have those seats available after taking much better care of your baseline constituentcy in Oakland which is the proles, not the college bound.

  • Donna

    Nextset: Please go back and reread Paragraph 4 of your initial post where you lumped Nursing School with vocational ed and said it does not need a university level IQ. This is what raised Family_of_Nurses and others’ ire. Are you really saying that you believe that RNs require less than a university level IQ?

    No one is saying that schools do not need RNs.

  • Nextset

    Donna – Nursing School is a vocational school. While Organic Chem is required as a screen to keep out certain wanna-be’s, that program is not as selective as higher medical programs. Nor does it require the dexterity of dentistry.

    Do nurses require a university level IQ? Depends on what university you are refering to I suppose.

    And I think some people clearly do say schools don’t need RNs because they have been removed from the public schools, along with Driver’s Ed/Training and other things which helped the proles better survive adolescence. I still remember the Hot Cinnamon Rolls at Oakland Tech and wish all High School students had the experience of that kitchen/cafeteria operation. Until they go to prison they no longer have such culinary services to go to and maybe work in.

    My point here is before I would fund all these wonderful enrichment and college prep programs I would first support and maintain the basics upon which the lower class (not the college bound) depend. This thread was started in comment on “exemplary” schools. I fear the public schools are in love with show & feel good programs while they engender massive drop outs of unserved proles. Proles don’t want college prep, they want and need basics (which may include the kitchens, nurses, driver’s training, shop classes, etc).

  • Yastrzemski

    Nextset….RN’s with B.S. degrees do NOT go to vocational schools…really, stop saying that.

    Vocational programs are LVN’s or nursing AIDES…they are sometimes the ones taking care of the patients and every nurse (RNs, usually with advanced degrees)depends heavily on them for direct patient care. We do need RNs in schools, and I certainly agree that some of the most crucial and needed programs in OUSD are gone or underfunded.
    I think some of the posts got a little “tangled”…my point (and Family’s it seems) is that a nursing degree cannot be lumped into the same category as bus drivers, dry wallers or plumbers.
    I have no idea what you mean about the “dexterity of dentistry” but the next time you or a family member is hospitalized, I guarantee you’ll want an actual RN taking care of you…not someone from a vocational program.

  • Family_of_Nurses

    …and, to piggyback on what Yastzemski is saying and further make my initial point, I imagine you’d hope that the RN who does care for you in such circumstances doesn’t know that you said she doesn’t have or need a “University Level IQ.”

  • Caroline

    I’m posting without reading through the Nextset diaries, above, so just to clarify that. Whatever he’s posting, my comments are unrelated and not in response.

    I have some issues with these awards, though, and I think it’s a mistake for the press to promote and hail them. Here’s why: Schools have to take the initiative to apply for them; it’s a time-consuming and onerous process. I know some parents who have worked it in past years for their schools and who have told me that emphatically. The process requires the involvement of school administration and faculty too, so it’s not something that parents can step up and do on their own.

    Well, obviously schools that don’t have the resources and personpower to work this process aren’t in the running. Congrats to the schools that “won,” but awards like this tend to reward the already privileged and kick the less advantaged (by slighting them). And really, should school communities be rewarded for spending time and energy chasing after this kind of recognition rather than devoting the time and energy into their students? (Or, if they really have spare time and energy, perhaps to the students at a struggling school?)

    Any press coverage should at least carry a prominent disclaimer explaining that schools have to take the initiative to pursue this recognition and clarifying how much time and effort it takes. Without that, the readers are being seriously misled. Sorry to be a grump, but I find this really annoying — both the reward for devoting effort to seeking recognition, and the way it’s handled in the press.

  • Sarah

    Nextset –

    What is your vocation, and how does it or your other professional experience give you the knowledge to make sweeping generalizations about all things education?

    I won’t even try to change your mind (for now, at least), but I’m curious about what makes you tick…

  • Oakland Teacher

    Re #12 – Yes, it is a huge undertaking to apply for these types of recognitions. I do want to say that most schools who apply do NOT receive the award, so merely going through the process does not equate with being awarded the designation.

    It takes a school that demonstrates in real tangible ways that they are supporting students to grow to their highest potential.

  • CarolineSF

    Well, it would be interesting to get the actual numbers on how many schools that go through the process don’t get the awards — Katy?

    But the really important point is that only schools that can muster the resources to go through the demanding application process — and are wiling to devote those resources to this project, rather than to educating children — are even in the running. And all news coverage and other mentions of these awards should be stating that clearly and prominently.

  • Nextset

    Back to the RN thing: I have known a lot of RNs over the years. Some have 4 year degrees, some don’t. Some have Master’s degrees, some even more advanced degrees. Some work critical care/surgery/ICU and some work public health. Some work in audits.

    As many other occupations do, this one allows for a range of intelligence and training. Once a nurse gets licenced (usually a) she can work in areas that require greater intelligence and training to those that don’t. All are not equal.

    So no, you do not have to have university level IQ to be a nurse. Quite the contrary. But it sure helps. Ditto other occupations. As in the Army or the NFL there is an IQ band for each occupation/position. Too low you are eliminated by a screen (Organic Chem, etc in Nursing), too high you don’t fit in).

    Caroline’s post gets into my point in this thread. As I often say, Ken and Barbie and their teachers are always going to be just fine. With relatively little effort and not requiring a professional publicist they can take awards. To the extent the urban public schools pursue these awards, watch out. They typically do so by finding their own Ken and Barbies which in a large student population you can always find even if their names are Singh and Lin. So when an urban school tries to crow about how they are changing “The Gap” I just laugh. I’ve seen that game played for decades since the 60s. And the game usually is played with primary schools since it’s less obvious what they are doing in that setting.

    Why do people fall for this BS decade after decade?? Because they are hearing what they want to hear and they have never learned critical thinking. Such people typically voted for Obama for the same reasons. They want it to be so, they just want it. Damn the consequences. Steroids on an infection.

    Not that the opponent was great either, he/she wasn’t. I’m referring to the typical rad-lib reasons for the O vote (as opposed to voting Hillary)- but remember many conservatives called for an O victory to pave the way for a far Right Wing tidal wave which is brewing.

    My retort to the thread about “exemplary” is the same. It is better and more appropriate to use our Urban School budgets to provide for the well being and survival of the proletariat in this Brave New World and not to divert any significant amount to attempt to do college prep for the student population at large.

    In an urban school system the advanced classes should be limited and focused on the relatively small percentage that want it and can use it (ie summer sessions and small competitive college prep campuses). The district budget should primarily be used to get the large bulk of the student body (drop out candidates included) by age 18 to the point that they are ready for industry, military and higher education suited to their aptitude. It’s wrong to wreck the budget and not supply the needed school programs to chase fantasy college programs for those who don’t want them (great majority of OUSD) as shown by scores and choices they make (truancy from algebra class, etc).

    This “exemplary” thing here at these schools is part and parcel of the policy of diverting money from the proles to the fantasy few of the Educrats. They want us to believe this policy works. No, it never works. You cannot spend your way into making low IQ students achieve as high IQ students. It is not the teachers’ “fault” that the OUSD students’ exit scores are the way they are. The bottom 25% is always the bottom 25%. Our job is to get them ready to make it in the world using every advantage they do have.

  • livegreen

    I want to commend the 4 schools who got this award. They all have high API scores, some comparable to Orinda and Albany. & they have narrowed the achievement gap which, 50 year goal or not, is better than the vast majority of schools.

    I do not know the methodology used, but would like to point out that the schools did not necessarily have to go through a long awards application process. The state quite possibly used existing API & other common scoring methods, which actually would have been quite easy.

    Finally, I do think Vocational & Tech programs are a good idea & underutilized. At the same time, much as we shouldn’t expect all kids will go to college, we shouldn’t expect that all students in an urban school district won’t.

  • CarolineSF

    The schools that “won” did have to go through an elaborate, time-consuming, resource-sucking, labor-intensive process, Livegreen — dem’s the facts.

    And they had to take the initiative to apply, knowing that it MEANT undertaking that elaborate, time-consuming, resource-sucking, labor-intensive process. That’s why I’m raising the issue.

  • Union Supporter-But

    To all of the people who have complained about the labor-intensive . . . process, I have to say that I know some of the teachers at Thornhill, and they are willing to put in the work and the “process” to get grants for a music/math program and evaluate the program.

    To be able to be recognized, but also to be able to get large GRANT money for innovation and projects, you have to be wiling to do EXTRA work. This is not only for education – every industry that gives awards, grants, and in-kind goods and services, requires extra labor. You can look at it as resource-sucking, or you can also say, our school sits down and examines what we have done right and what we can improve AND we are confident in what we have done, so confident that we are willing to let those outside our school have a look and evaluate us.

    On this blog, we have often talked about evaluations – for teachers, our superintendent, the school board, the budget, all evaluations are labor intensive, that is why they are often not done regularly. I applaud the winners listed, but for every school who had the courage, invested their time and integrity and who asked for evaluation from the outside in order to learn, grow and better serve their students.

    Mediocrity, complaining and status quo attitudes will bring mediocrity, complaining and status quo schools, students and learning.

  • livegreen

    Yeah, what was that process? I mean, you can look at their API scores and see that they’ve narrowed the achievement gap. U might be right, I’m just asking for at least a few facts to back it up.

    & anyway they have narrowed the achievement gap, they have done something good, and yet you & Nextset are knocking it. Typical of the Bay Area: even when something good happens there’s plenty of people to criticize it.

  • CarolineSF

    I didn’t complain about the process per se. What I complained about is that announcements and news coverage of the process need to clarify that schools have to apply for the awards and have to work a labor-intensive process — and the announcements and news coverage fail to include that key information.

    The people running the awards don’t just look at all schools and bestow the awards, that is. The only schools eligible to win are the ones that apply and work the process. Top-notch schools that meet all the criteria — possibly schools that show more success than schools that do win — will not be in the running if they don’t apply and work the process.

    What I’m complaining about is not the process but the fact that the announcements and news coverage don’t make that clear, which is misleading.

    Back it up? Well, I’ve talked to a number of parents and teachers in schools that have applied and won. In Post #14 above, Oakland Teacher, in a comment praising the awards, posted: “…it is a huge undertaking to apply for these types of recognitions.” I’m sorry if you don’t believe me and Oakland Teacher, Livegreen. Katy, would you be able to research and clarify, please?

    The California Dept. of Education’s materials on this award hint at the need to apply, but they don’t exactly announce it prominently.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Yes, I did say it is a huge undertaking. And that willingness to go “above and beyond” what is mandated is exactly what allows these schools to achieve at the level they do. That same willingness leads to grants being written, integration of arts with curriculum, collaborative teaching, high level of parent participation, etc…

    I have worked in schools that have that and do not feel it should somehow invalidate the work they do every day for their kids. And they are doing it over the summer through continuing education, grant writing, etc… There is a saying that when you need someone to do something, ask the busiest person. That applies to schools as well: when you suggest undertaking big things at these schools, they are more than willing.

    I worked at a school which applied for the distinction and did not receive it. I think the process itself can be a reflective one that leads to further growth at the schools that choose to try. No one is pointing the finger at schools that don’t try, whatever the reason.

    It is unnecessary to hammer on the point that you have to apply. You have to apply for most things in life. Students who take AP classes and do well, students who do well on SAT’s, seniors who receive college scholarships all had to apply for something. I would hope no one points the finger at them and says “But they had to apply for those things and there are other students just as deserving who did not apply.” It sounds pretty silly doesn’t it?

  • CarolineSF

    I’m sorry, but my point is that the news coverage and other announcements convey the strong implication that these are the very best schools, selected from across all schools. A reasonable person reading the CDE announcements or the news coverage would infer that.

    That’s not actually the case, because in reality there’s an application and review process that demands time and effort and a sales job from the school community.

    So the announcements and news coverage are misleading, because these schools were NOT chosen impartially as the best from among *all* schools as implied. That’s my point. I don’t see why it should provoke such a huff. It isn’t really debatable — the process DOES demand time, effort and a sales job from the school community, and a school community that doesn’t apply and devote the time, effort and sales job isn’t in the running no matter how excellent the school is.

    I realize that this is rather overshadowed by the major upheavals going on in Oakland right now! Ouch.

  • Frustrated


    Your message is exactly what I thought about this announcement. It is fantastic for the schools who won, but the announcement doesn’t mention the process. Therefore, it sounds like the other schools in the area couldn’t win the award.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Joan Ferrari

    Here is detailed inforamation about the entire process: