Let me tell you something about decimals…

Two of the elementary school principals I’ve talked to in the last week — John Melvin at Lincoln in Chinatown and Monica Thomas at Greenleaf (formerly Whittier) in East Oakland — told me about a skill their staff are helping students build, one that can’t be measured on a bubble test: oral presentation.

Here’s a short clip of Erika Brown’s fifth-grade math class at Greenleaf yesterday. Her students are adding decimals, but they’re also learning how to talk about them. Is this something your school emphasizes as well?


At two-way immersion school, math class is in Spanish

You might have noticed, when glancing through Oakland schools’ latest test scores, that one made a 106-point jump on the API. That was Manzanita SEED, a two-way language immersion elementary school that opened in 2005 on the old Manzanita campus (East 27th Street between 23rd Avenue and Fruitvale Avenue).

Two years ago, its API was 652. Now it’s 842. In a single year, the school went from 44 percent proficiency in math to 73 percent proficiency. You can find a story about SEED’s trajectory here, and in the paper tomorrow.

When I called the school to see if I could visit a math class, Principal Katherine Carter suggested I visit one that’s taught in Spanish. From kindergarten through third grade, SEED students learn math in Spanish; about half of its students are native Spanish speakers, and the other half speak English or another language at home.

Here’s a glimpse into the third-grade classroom of Ana Ferrus-Garcia:


Behind the screens of the Peralta Community Colleges board: Reporter finds some telling e-mails

Matt Krupnick, my colleague who covers higher education for the Bay Area News Group, requested e-mail correspondence from the public accounts of Linda Handy, Marcie Hodge and William Riley, trustees for the Peralta Community College District who are running for re-election or, in Hodge’s case, for mayor. He tells us what he found.

from Fletcher Prince's photostream on flickr.com/creativecommonsA stack of e-mails I obtained from the Peralta Community College District gives an interesting look into the inner world of trustees — and some shed light on why they never return my calls.

The e-mails, obtained through the California Public Records Act, were sent to and from the public accounts of trustees Linda Handy, Marcie Hodge and William Riley, all of whom are running for re-election or for another public office in November. Most of the messages provided nothing but tedium, but others contained some surprising reactions to what I thought were standard requests for information.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Handy responded in one message when told of my request for the e-mails. “How racist is that?”

All three of the trustees, who all happen to be African-American, are running for public office — Handy and Riley for re-election and Hodge for Oakland mayor — and none of the three has been willing to answer questions about their performance on the Peralta board. Looking through their e-mail is one of the few ways for a reporter to tell the public about these officials.

The messages show surprising reactions from other trustees as well. Continue Reading


Oakland teachers union stays neutral on tax

The Oakland teachers union opposed the school district’s last (failed) attempt to raise its members’ salaries via local taxation (“Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Act“). But tonight, union leaders decided to take a neutral position on a similar initiative, Measure L, according to union President Betty Olson-Jones.

“I think it was the best we could have hoped for, given the track record,” said Peter Fiske, a Chabot Elementary School parent who’s volunteering on the parcel tax campaign.

Rebranded as “Oakland Unified School District’s Student Achievement, Support and Safety Measure,” Measure L would cost Oakland property owners $195 a year and generate an estimated $20 million. Though “teacher” does not appear in the title, most the funds would go to the salaries of teachers and other school-based employees.

The teachers union, which held a one-day strike in April and has yet to resolve a contract dispute with the district, withdrew Continue Reading


API, AYP, PI, and NCLB again

Today, the state released a slew of test score data — a new Academic Performance Index for each school and district as well as their No Child Left Behind status. See a list of all Alameda County districts and schools here, and click here for a two-tab spreadsheet of Oakland schools and their API scores. The second tab is sorted by school level and score.

The NCLB upshot:

Three Oakland elementary schools (Horace Mann Elementary, New Highland Academy and Bridges Academy at Melrose) made it off the federal watchlist known as Program Improvement this year. This means they met the ever-rising No Child Left Behind test score targets — all of them — two years in a row.

Thirteen others, however, missed those targets for two straight years and entered Program Improvement. Those schools are:

Continue Reading


U.S. education secretary comes to Oakland, says he’s “a big fan” of superintendent

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Oakland’s Merritt College and Berkeley’s Longfellow Middle School today. The news media were not invited to a roundtable discussion at the community college this morning (boo!), so all I have for you is a snippet from a press conference afterward.

I asked Duncan what he thought about Tony Smith’s vision for Oakland’s public schools. Here’s what he said, after praising U.S. Representative Barbara Lee:

Continue Reading


Oakland school wins National Blue Ribbon

Lincoln Elementary School. Tribune file photo by Jane TyskaLincoln Elementary School is the first public, non-charter school in Oakland to receive a National Blue Ribbon Award from the United States Department of Education. It was one of just 21 public or private schools in California to be honored this year for academic excellence, and among 304 nationwide.

More than 75 percent of Lincoln’s students come from low-income families, and about 90 percent enter kindergarten with limited knowledge of English, Principal John Melvin said.

But get this: 84 percent tested proficient or higher this year on the state’s reading test, and 96 percent showed proficiency in math. Every one of its fourth-grade students met the state’s targets in math, and 93 percent tested at the “advanced,” or the highest, level.

The 600-student school Continue Reading


Dueling press releases, in perfect sync

Is Schwarzenegger standing between California schools and their desperately-needed federal Education Jobs funding, or is the governor simply waiting for lawmakers to send the related state legislation (SB 847) to his desk? (And why do they need to do this? I thought that part was automatic.)

At exactly 1:36 p.m., I got two news alerts — from the offices of U.S. Representative George Miller and Schwarzenegger, respectively — that said opposite things.

First, from Miller:

Continue Reading


Volunteer fair Saturday for Oakland schools

volunteers garden at Melrose Leadership Academy. File photo by Laura A. Oda/Staff

Want to help an Oakland public school? I hear they’re looking for a few good reading tutors, student mentors, career coaches, homework helpers, science coaches, artists, gardeners and playground monitors.

You can learn about those and other opportunities this weekend at a fair hosted by the Montclair Community Action Group and the school district. It’s from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Westlake Middle School, 2629 Harrison St. at 27th Street, across from the Whole Foods.

For more information about the event, visit the Montclair Community Action website , or email Risha Riley at risha.riley@ousd.k12.ca.us.