Banned from graduation: Did the punishment fit the crime?

Skyline senior's painted car (courtesy photo)

It seemed like a fun idea at the time: Painting their cars like floats in a parade and cruising down the off-limits service road that runs around Oakland’s Skyline High School campus at lunchtime.

But about 11 of the students that took part in Friday’s senior prank — those who were caught — learned yesterday they would be suspended and banned from walking the stage at tomorrow night’s commencement at the Paramount, said Raeshon Culberson, whose daughter Jasmine was suspended (and, incidentally, who used to teach at Skyline).

They’ll be allowed inside the theater, Culberson said, but not on stage — and not dressed in a cap and gown.

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More shocking news for adult ed in Oakland

Next week, the Oakland school district will consider a proposal to salvage what it can of its preschool programs for low-income families — at the expense of adult immigrants, refugees, high school dropouts and others looking to better their lives through education.

Adult education teachers and workers were told today to attend an important meeting at McClymonds. I’m told they sat in stunned silence as they heard the latest development:  The district administration will propose taking an additional 44 percent cut from adult education programs ($5 million) at a special school board meeting on Monday, June 14. Checking on the time; it wasn’t yet posted this afternoon.

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Advice to OUSD: Don’t sweat your reputation

From a marketing perspective, the Oakland school district should worry less about its overall reputation and more about how the community perceives its individual schools, MBA students from UC Berkeley concluded after reviewing the results of an online survey I posted on the blog in April.

About 300 people completed the survey, many of them with zip codes in the hills; the report’s authors acknowledged that the respondents weren’t representative of the city’s population.

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Barbara Lee tours Claremont Middle School

Rep. Barbara Lee visits Oakland's Claremont Middle School. Courtesy photo.

I wasn’t there for Rep. Barbara Lee’s visit to Claremont Middle School in Rockridge, but it sounded from the CTA press release like a chance to promote the benefits of Quality Education Investment Act funding for struggling schools. (And, maybe, a plug for the author of the bill, state Assemblymember Tom Torlakson, who’s running for state superintendent for public instruction with the CTA’s endorsement.)

QEIA (pronounced QUEE-a) money comes from the 2006 settlement of a school funding lawsuit the CTA filed against Gov. Schwarzenegger. Continue Reading


Science in OUSD: No longer optional

Angie Cedillo looks at a yellow swallowtail butterfly. By D. Ross Cameron/Oakland TribuneFinally, something the school district administration and teachers union can agree on!

Last week, the Oakland school board unanimously approved a proposal to require 60 minutes of science instruction each week in kindergarten through third grade, and 90 minutes in fourth and fifth grade, beginning in the fall of 2011. (If you follow me on Twitter, you might already know this. If you don’t, you should! Just go here to find my profile.)

I wrote a story about this development. It will be in tomorrow’s paper, but it’s up online, here.

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In Oakland schools, the bumping is about to begin

Jan Seagren, secretary at Grass Valley Elementary

When it comes to school employees, most education coverage focuses on teachers, principals and superintendents. (Guilty!) In the last week, though, I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for the role of other school employees in making schools run smoothly.

Last month, 313 Oakland school secretaries, security officers, library clerks and other employees were told they’ll soon be laid off, demoted or reassigned to someone else’s job. It’s happening through a seniority-based “bumping” process that — because of its ripple effect — will affect most of the schools in the district in one way or another. No one I interviewed could remember this happening on such a large scale in Oakland.

I wrote a story about the people affected by the bumping process. It will be in tomorrow’s paper. You can find the online version here.

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New graduation rates, huge disparities

Pittsburg High School graduation, 2009. Bay Area News Group file photo by DAN ROSENSTRAUCH

About 71 percent of California’s high school students graduated “on time” in 2008, after four years — 3.7 percentage points below the national average, according to a set of sobering numbers brought to you by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. (Page 5)

If you break the California numbers down by ethnicity, the disparities leap off the page: 57 percent of black students in the Class of 2008 graduated on time, compared to 61 percent of Latino students, 91 percent of Asian students and 80 percent of white students. (Page 7)

The state’s black students left school early at the highest rate: 9 percent dropped out in 2007-08, compared to 6 percent of Latino students, 2 percent of Asian students, and 3 percent of white students that year. (Page 15)

Five-year trends: Continue Reading


Weinberg: Myths about standardized testing

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and regular Education Report blogger, tells us what standardized tests can’t measure, in his view, and why. -Katy

Steven WeinbergIn my last 10 years working for Oakland Unified School District, I spent considerable time investigating the California Standards Tests and their results to help my school make sense of the data the tests generated. During that time I became aware of a number of myths have been built up about these tests, many propagated by the state or the test makers themselves.

Knowing the facts about these tests is important for drawing reasonable conclusions from their results and for making sound educational decisions for the future.

I know that most readers of this blog are already fairly sophisticated about the nature of standardized testing, but the results of these tests are so often misused, it is worth taking some time to review these misconceptions.

Myth 1: The California Standards Tests (CSTs) measure what teachers are supposed to teach.

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Want to see healthier food in schools? Oakland’s “State of the Plate” is Thursday

A parent-run produce stand at Glenview ElementaryIt’s one thing to gripe about greasy, processed school lunch food and its contribution to our nation’s obesity rate. It’s another to push for a system that will produce healthy, fresh meals for kids.

The Oakland School Food Alliance — a group of families, local organizations and community members that I wrote about last fall — is trying to do just that. If you’re curious about the latest developments in OUSD or have some ideas to share, the alliance is holding a “State of the Plate” discussion Thursday afternoon with Jennifer LeBarre, head of the school district’s nutrition services department.

It’ll be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Metwest High School, 314 E. 10th St. 

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