As some celebrate news for early childhood ed, others continue to protest

If you passed by the corner of 63rd Street and Herzog in North Oakland today, you might be surprised to know that the latest development for early childhood education in Oakland was actually a positive one. Or that the director of Oakland Parents Together called it “a stunning victory.”

For those who haven’t been watching (or riding) the Childhood Development Center roller-coaster, Superintendent Tony Smith announced Friday that the district had found the money to keep open five out of seven childcare centers slated for closure — at least through the end of December. He also said he would place a credentialed teacher at the Santa Fe CDC in North Oakland, one of the two centers to be closed, for 28 school-age kids who enroll in its before- and after-school program.

Unlike Berkeley Unified, which canceled its full-day preschool program under the threat of state budget cuts (its half-day programs are still running), Oakland is maintaining nearly all of its early childhood services — at the expense of other programs, such as adult education, which was gutted this year to save programs for the district’s littlest kids.

This all goes back the governor’s May budget proposal, which eliminated most funding for state-subsidized preschools and other childcare programs. The state Legislature has yet to pass a budget, and so school districts have had to build their budget assumptions around the governor’s plan (meaning little to no state money for early childhood programs).

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In Oakland schools, free breakfast for all

flamin hot cheetos. image from the 3768 cups of water's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsTeachers: On a given day, how many of your students come to your classroom with a stomach full of soda and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?  (I’m afraid to try these things; I hear they have a special addictive quality, but don’t really want to find out.)

Oakland Unified’s nutrition services director, Jennifer LeBarre, hopes to cut into Frito Lay’s breakfast market by offering a square meal to all kids for free, regardless of family income. Last school year, about 40 schools did this; now, kids at 94 schools — all of the ones that provide breakfast, which is most of them — have access to free breakfast.

On the menu this morning: for elementary school kids, cold cereal with graham crackers, scrambled eggs with toast, orange juice and milk. Middle and high school students had the option of starting their day with cereal, hot grits, cinnamon toast with syrup or a bagel with cream cheese.

The cost: Continue Reading


First day back

First day at Reach Academy in Oakland. Photo by Jim Stevens/Bay Area News GroupI visited Reach Academy in East Oakland (Cox campus) this morning for our annual back-to-school feature. There’s something timeless about seeing kids lined up behind signs with their teachers’  names — and the parent peering through the classroom door, seeing how his child has settled into class.

Reach has a brand new building this year. It’s the first school to be rebuilt, I believe, since ACORN Woodland and EnCompass. I took some video, so I’ll post something soon.

How has the first day at your school gone so far? Any stories for us?


Oakland’s CDCs to stay open through December

Highland Childhood Development Center. File photo.

This just in: The Oakland school district staff closed its books last night and found the money to keep the district’s early childhood programs running for four more months, according to school board member Gary Yee and District Spokesman Troy Flint.

As of this morning, the district planned to stop its before- and after-school programs, which about 700 children in kindergarten through grade 3 attend, at the end of the month. Sounds like that is no longer the case.

Yee got a call from the superintendent around 1:15 p.m. with the news. Stay tuned for more details.


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A higher ed dispatch from UC Berkeley

Matt Krupnick, our higher education reporter, tells us about the entering class at UC Berkeley, from the chancellor’s point of view, on the first day of classes.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert BirgeneauA variety of media types gathered at UC Berkeley today – the first day of classes – to get Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s annual take on the university’s state of affairs. It was his seventh such briefing, if my math is correct, and mine as well.

While Birgeneau previously used this event to announce news, they have become more wide-ranging in recent years. He provides a look at the entering class and updates on other items of interest.

The 2010 version featured a lot of discussion about minority and low-income students. Berkeley, always known for its allegiance to the poor, enrolled a record number of low-income freshmen this year, Birgeneau said. More than one-third of the entering class of 5,000 freshmen – 37 percent – is eligible for the federal Pell Grant, a need-based scholarship.

But Birgeneau also mentioned his concern about the low number of underrepresented minority students. Just 3.2 percent of the class of 2014 is black, while 12.2 percent are Latino, 31 percent are white and 45.6 percent are Asian-American.

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Mack is back.

The Oakland school board just voted unanimously to reinstate McClymonds as the name of West Oakland’s high school. Lots of clapping, cheering and friendly inter-high school trash talking tonight…

McClymonds had been split into two high schools — EXCEL and BEST — as part of the Bill Gates-funded small schools movement, but because of declining enrollment, it’ll be one school again this fall under a new principal, Kevin Taylor.

District staff suggested a few months ago that it be called EXCEL at McClymonds, but the school’s alumni association started a push to bring “Mack back.”

So they did. It’ll be McClymonds High School again.


My high blood pressure and test scores: The connection is not what you’d think

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and Education Report blogger, thinks public education could use a new prescription.

Steven WeinbergNine years ago my doctor informed me that my blood pressure was too high and put me at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke and could shorten my life. He put me on a medication which quickly reduced by blood pressure fairly dramatically.

Several years later he changed my prescription to a different medicine. When my blood pressure climbed back about half-way to what it had been originally, I became concerned and asked him why we had switched to a less effective medication. He said that although the first drug was very successful in lowering blood pressure, long-term studies had shown it had no effect at all in reducing fatal heart attacks and strokes, and reducing those was the real goal in prescribing the medication in the first place.

In other words, although the first medication was doing a great job changing the measurements we were tracking—blood pressure—it was having no real effect on the important goal, extending my life. The second drug, although less impressive in changing the blood pressure numbers, had a solid record in improving the things that really mattered.

Recent articles about test scores have caused me to wonder if something similar isn’t happening today in education. Continue Reading


The latest high school exit exam results


Talk about a high-stakes test. Unless you pass both sections of the California High School Exit Exam — English and math — you don’t get a high school diploma.

Students take the exam for the first time as 10th-graders (the test includes some Algebra I concepts and English standards through grade 10) and they may retake it several times in their junior and senior years. Last year, 100 percent of the students in Piedmont Unified passed both subjects as 10th-graders, and the same was true this year at the American Indian Public High School.

I put together a spreadsheet with four pages that breaks down the first-time pass rates by district and race/ethnicity and highlights changes (by district in Alameda and Contra Costa counties) from last year to this year.

Tab 4 — titled “OUSD” —  lists Oakland’s high schools, including charters,  in alphabetical order and then, below, sorts them from highest to lowest 10th-grade pass rates in each subject. The charter schools are definitely clustered at the top.

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To prepare for school’s opening, Oakland principals step outside

Here’s my latest Flip camera production and story about Superintendent Tony Smith’s vision for OUSD and a back-to-school bus tour (one of three) for OUSD staff last week. I didn’t make it on the bus — no room! too many administrators! — but photographer Laura Oda and I were hot on their tail, and we met up with a walking tour in West Oakland.

Here’s what we saw and heard:

P.S. If you want to know what region your school is in, check out this map. I understand the regions correspond with those of the Oakland police and the county’s public health department.