A strike on the first day of school? Unlikely.

Oakland teachers' strike on April 29If my inbox is any indication, the rumor mill is humming about the possibility that Oakland teachers will strike on the first week of the school year. (Some parents say they’ve heard it from teachers they know or other reliable sources.)

A new school year can be stressful as it is, without wondering whether it’s going to start as planned. One mom asked me if I knew how a strike school worked.

So I’m here to tell you not to worry.

Here’s what Betty Olson-Jones, the teacher’s union president, said this afternoon: Continue Reading


Truancy starts earlier than you might think

Last school year, one-third of the Oakland school district’s elementary schoolchildren missed at least three full days of school, unexcused. Of those, 1,482 missed 10 days or more, according to district data (and my own basic math). That’s 7 percent — one in every 14 kids in grades K-5.

At Brookfield Elementary, the percentage was much higher; 29 percent of the children missed 10 days or more without a valid reason given to the attendance clerk. At Reach Academy and Santa Fe Elementary, 28 percent of the children missed at least two weeks of school.

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How did Oakland’s charter schools do?

Oakland’s charter school test scores vary just as widely as those of the rest of  the schools in the district. Want to see how the state-funded, privately run schools did on the 2010 state tests, and whether their scores improved from last year?

Look no further. I’ve just finished compiling the numbers. (If you spot an error, please let me know!)

Click here for the spreadsheet, which you should be able to sort to your heart’s content, and here for the link to the state CST data.


Test scores inch up in Oakland, Alameda County

California’s 2010 California Standards Test scores are in.

Wonder how Oakland stacks up to other districts in Alameda County? Here’s a spreadsheet of the districts, sorted from highest to lowest percentages of English and math proficiency. On the second worksheet, you can also see how the scores in each district changed from 2009 to 2010.

OUSD trends: Oakland’s public schoolkids scored better than they did the year before. More of them met the state’s proficiency goals in reading (41 percent, up 4 points) and math (44 percent, up 5 points), and fewer tested poorly (31 percent scored “below basic” or “far below basic” in reading, and 36 percent did so in math, an improvement of several points).

The district’s elementary schools made solid — and in some cases, dramatic — improvement on the California Standards Tests, based on a school-by-school analysis prepared by the district’s data whizzes. The middle schools’ numbers moved in the right direction, too, especially in math (with the exception of West Oakland Middle School, whose math scores rose spectacularly last year and fell pretty far this year, though not all the way back down).

But the scores remained flat at most of the school district’s high schools, particularly those in East and West Oakland. In math, all but four at least 18 of Oakland’s high schools have proficiency percentages in the single digits. (As one reader rightly noted, my original count didn’t include schools with grades 6-12, which were included in the middle school section.)

Here are some schools whose student proficiency scores went up at least 15 percentage points in reading and/or math. Let me know if I’m missing anyone!

Burckhalter – 15 points in math (71%)
Martin Luther King, Jr. – 15 points in reading (38%)
Manzanita Community School – 17 points in math (61%)
Markham – 22 points in reading (55%), 15 in math (60%)
RISE – 18 points in reading (36%)
Manzanita SEED – 29 points in math (73%)
Maxwell Park – 15 points in math (46%)
Piedmont Avenue – 16 points in math (67%)

Alliance Academy – 15 points in math (32%)
Community Day – 23 points in reading (27%)


L.A. Times ranks teachers based on student scores

Los Angeles Unified didn’t use its wealth of student test score data to try to evaluate the effectiveness of its teachers, but the L.A. Times did.

The newspaper collected seven years worth of California Standards Test data for more than 600,000 students in grades 3 through 5. Using a method called “value added,” which is designed to estimate each student’s academic progress from one year to the next, the reporters rated 6,000 teachers in the system, from “least effective” to “most effective,” based on whether their students made more (or less) progress, on average, than others in their grade throughout the district.

Later this month, the paper plans to publish the database — with the teachers’ names and how they stack up, by this measure, against their colleagues. You can read more about the project here, and the first story in the series here.

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Oakland school landscaping project Saturday, volunteers welcome

A volunteer weeds at a local high school. File photo by Jose Carlos FajardoAs I reported this spring, the Oakland school district’s facilities department took a big hit this year, laying off a number of gardeners, electricians and other workers.

Tomorrow, the department is teaming up with GKK Works and McCarthy Building Companies — and community volunteers — to clear brush and weed at four Oakland schools.

Interested? Here’s the scoop, straight from the news release:

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Beyond `pay for play': Some schools charge for P.E. uniforms, electives

A mother in San Lorenzo who saw the `pay to play‘ blog post wrote to tell me that her daughter’s new middle school was charging a $20 fee for electives.

Another mom sent me a letter from an Oakland middle school that listed prices for P.E. uniforms and clothing that matched the school’s dress code.

Jory Steele, managing attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, said the organization has received numerous complaints about schools that may be violating the 1984 Supreme Court ruling that public schools — and related activities and curriculum — must be free for all students.

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Help an Oakland school, have a martini!


The bartenders in Oakland’s Uptown like to mix really delicious, complicated and expensive cocktails, often with unusual ingredients. (The `sour’ I ordered last night at Era Art Bar involved maple syrup and egg whites.) At a back-to-school fundraiser and Uptown Block Party Aug. 28, a $20 ticket will buy you a cocktail and a donation to a local public school.

Could goodwill get any easier?

The 5 p.m. block party will be hosted by Era, Ozumo, Pican and Luka’s, which are near the intersection of Broadway and Grand Avenue. The restaurants will offer food specials, too. Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit Crocker Highlands Elementary, Westlake Middle School, Oakland Tech High School and Laney Community College.

Some more details:

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“Pay to play” in the East Bay?

pay to playCalifornia’s public schools can’t legally require students to pay for uniforms, transportation or other costs of extracurricular activities, but some do anyway.

Last week, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that some schools in San Diego Unified were asking students to pay for uniforms and other expenses associated with extracurricular activities, even though the California Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that the practice violates state law.

The ACLU is also conducting a probe of other California schools that might require kids to pay for medical examinations, gear, Advanced Placement examinations, coaches and other expenses, according to California Watch.

The high school district in Brentwood (Contra Costa County) charges students for some activities, but it might revise its policies in light of the San Diego situation, Bay Area News Group reporter Rowena Coetsee learned. Oakland Unified Spokesman Troy Flint said there is no districtwide policy of the kind, but he couldn’t guarantee that none of OUSD’s schools did so.

Do they? What other East Bay schools require students to pay at least something to participate in extracurriculars?


The lone school board race, a West Oakland charter and other board news

Gary YeeBen Visnick

At the City Clerk’s Office today, I learned that a handful of people are running for Oakland school board after all!

But it’s not a big day for democracy: Few Oaklanders, it seems, want a piece of the board’s renewed governing power and responsibility. Only one of the three incumbents — Gary Yee, in District 4 — will be challenged in November. Ben Visnick, the previous Oakland teacher union president, is taking him on.

That means David Kakishiba (District 2), who almost stepped down last fall because of a conflict-of-interest ruling by the school district’s general counsel, and Chris Dobbins (District 6), who was censured by his fellow board members in 2007 because of a relationship with a 17-year-old student, will be elected to another four-year term by default.

SPEAKING OF THE SCHOOL BOARD: It’s holding its first regular meeting since June at 5 p.m. Wednesday (agenda here). Staff is recommending the approval of Vincent Academy, a K-5 charter that would open in West Oakland in 2011. It would be affiliated with the nonprofit St. Vincent’s Day Home and run by an entity called Partners in Oakland Education.

What do you make of this paragraph in the staff report? Continue Reading