GO Public Schools’ wish list for 2011

Great Oakland Public Schools, a local advocacy group that started with funding from the Rogers Family Foundation, wants to see some new blood on the Oakland teachers union’s executive board and representative council next year. It wants district leaders to emphasize high quality instruction as well as service hubs, and a “new and better response” to an unnamed principal who has complained about the required retention of mediocre teachers.

Below is a letter from GO’s director (and former OUSD administrator) Jonathan Klein, followed by the 10-item wish list. Which of the points do you agree or disagree with? Continue Reading


Should layoff rules be rewritten?

I’ve been catching up on education news today, after enjoying the holidays in my snowy hometown.

I came across two stories from last week that made me wonder how school districts will proceed with layoffs after the federal stimulus funds dry up (a cheery thought for the New Year).

One was an AP story about a study by the University of Washington’s Center for Education Data & Research. Researchers concluded that seniority-based layoff policies were likely to have negative consequences for students.

In the report, they compared two hypothetical scenarios: Continue Reading


A holiday hiatus

Chicago winter. Photo from IMLS DCC'S site on flickr.com/creativecommons

Happy holidays, TheTruthHurts, Cranky Teacher, Nextset, Harlemmoon, Sue, On the Fence and the rest of you who read and share your views on this blog!

I’m heading to Chicago in a few hours, but The Education Report will be back in full force next week.


Oakland teacher must leave her kids — and her life in the United States — behind

Bambi In February 2003 Bambi Rodriguez, a Filipina citizen with a master’s degree in special education, filled a special education position at Tilden School — one that that had been vacant for months.

Two weeks ago, she learned her application for permanent employment was denied based on the Department of Labor’s finding that there were enough U.S. workers qualified for her job.

Her work visa expires next week, and so she left as she came in: in the middle of the school year. We met Rodriguez Wednesday, on her last day at the Burbank Preschool Center, a program that migrated from Tilden after that school closed.

Here is the story about her case, and how it has affected Burbank families and teachers.


Case study: an alternative to “zero-tolerance” discipline in West Oakland

Cole Middle School. File photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

A social justice center at UC Berkeley’s law school published a case study today that highlights the successes, challenges and potential of restorative justice in schools, based on observations at the (now closed) Cole Middle School in West Oakland.

Restorative Justice is a set of principles designed to build community, prevent violence, correct behavior, and to repair harm, as well as frayed relationships. It’s an alternative to the traditional school discipline model, and the centers believe it could be a way to reduce the disproportionately high suspension rates of black and Latino students. You can find a lengthy description and online resources here, on the district’s website.

This is not a data-heavy report, but it does give a promising stat: The suspension rate at Cole dropped by 87 percent and expulsions went to zero after the program was implemented. Check out the graphs on page 31, if you have a chance.

It was an interesting read, especially if you make it beyond the executive summary. It’s clear that the author(s) spent lots of time at the school, observing and talking to people. (I think I met a law student working on this project — Atteeyah Hollie, maybe? — at a Cole event in 2008, after a gun went off in a classroom.)

Here’s a section on negative assumptions that some had, going in: Continue Reading


Brown: More school budget cuts coming

Governor-elect Jerry Brown. File photo/Bay Area News GroupCalifornia schools have lost $7 billion in state funding in the last three years, but all signs point to more cuts down the road — likely in the middle of the school year.

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown told educators today at a Los Angeles budget conference to “fasten your seat belts,” AP is reporting.

Ed Source tells us just how bad it might get in a new report detailing the extra pressures facing California’s public schools. Continue Reading


An Oakland mom’s take on the dropout rate and Tech’s Paideia program

Kim Shipp, an OUSD parent, responds to a blog discussion on Oakland’s dropout rate and access to Oakland Tech’s Paideia program.

Paideia classroom at Oakland Tech. Photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

In response to Oakland’s dropout rate and the increasing popularity of the Paideia program at Oakland Tech, topics recently posted on this blog, I decided to give my thoughts about both issues from a parent’s perspective. In my fifteen years of experience in Oakland schools with three children, I’ve spent two of those years in a private school setting and two of those years in Paideia with my oldest son.

It is no secret that Oakland has one of the highest dropout rates in California. The constant change of leadership over the past 13 years has had a negative impact on the school system. In Oakland’s case this includes nine leaders in the form of superintendents or state administrators; no organization can sustain itself in meeting its goals without stability in leadership. This permeates down to the school level.

Take Skyline High School for example. The graduating class of 2011 will have experienced a new principal in each of their four years of high school. My son spent his first year of high school at Skyline, the next two years at a private school and is now back at Skyline for his final year. This year, when he returned to Skyline, I immediately noticed some stark differences between private and public schools. In a nutshell, private schools care about what they are doing and public schools appear not to. These differences have little to do with money, but rather willingness on the part of adults and how one entity values education over the other.

Continue Reading


Oakland’s middle school “brain drain”

Students at an Oakland middle school. File photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

The Chronicle had an interesting story in yesterday’s paper (print-only until tomorrow) about the brain drain in the Oakland school district after the fifth grade.

According to this analysis by the Oakland school district, 28 percent of all fifth-graders — and 40 percent of those who scored “advanced” on this year’s reading test — dispersed to non-OUSD middle schools this year.

At Lincoln Elementary School in Chinatown, the city’s first public, non-charter school to win a National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education, a staggering 77 percent of last year’s fifth-graders left the district, up from 57 percent a few years ago.

Superintendent Tony Smith told Chronicle reporter Jill Tucker, whose son goes to Peralta Elementary in Rockridge (a school with the fifth-highest “leaving rate” in OUSD – 44 percent), that the loss of top students was one explanation for the drop-off in district test scores at the middle and high school level.

I’m sure that’s true at some middle schools, such as Westlake, Claremont and Montera, which are located near strong feeder schools with high OUSD defection rates. But it’s not just high-achievers who leave. If you look at districtwide numbers, the student make-up — categorized by STAR test score tier — changes only slightly after the so-called brain drain.

Continue Reading


Aztec dance helps youth see life differently

Last year, I met a group of mostly Latino teenagers from rival gang turf who came together each week for a “homies dinner” at the Eastlake YMCA and who started serving breakfast to day laborers before school on Monday mornings. Some of those youths, including 18-year-old Ivan Cruz — a Castlemont graduate — have joined an Aztec dance group, Eztli Chicahua, which practices on Friday nights in East Oakland. In the video, Ivan explains how the dancing has changed him.

The group performed at Saturday’s Our Lady of Guadalupe procession across Oakland, a 7.5-mile trek from a Catholic church on 100th Avenue and International to the cathedral on Lake Merritt. Read the story here.