You need to first look at the shifting demographics of the students.

Remember the Scott Phelps incident at Pasadena Schools, where the teachers were told they should take a new pay scheme where their pay would be adjusted up or down by the academic performance of the students? Phelps (a teacher) circulated a memo to the teachers/union members using the school’s interoffice mail citing the racial census on the feeder elementary schools showing that the high school was turning blacker which created a statistical certainty that the academic numbers would decline (and so would their pay under the proposed scheme).

Of course the school district had a hissy fit and suspended Phelps for spreading “Hate Truths” and being a “Racist”. I believe they were forced to reinstate him with full pay.

I for one am not about to take pious statements about hard work and improving API scores very easily. Oakland Unified like most California Urban/Ghetto districts is turning Mexican for various well known reasons. As it does, the baseline academic scores will change. Hispanics generally score higher than Blacks in certain areas. The patterns are so stark we could tell the race of a high school scholarship candidate just from the transcript math/verbal scores which I was doing scholarship interviews previously at an urban public school (asian, white, hispanic, black typically had different fixed ratios in the scores and sub scores). There could be an atypical candidate but that was extremely rare.

Maybe some scoring at a school boasting about improved numbers was affected by “hard work” but the racial numbers usually/always move together with the patterns and differences remaining constant relative to each other.

So I’m not buying that “closing the gap” line just because somebody claims it. I’ve been through that too many times. The “Gap” when measured with large numbers is simply too constant.

I do approve of a rising tide floating all boats. But if you think you are going to fundamentally change people and make them into what you want them to be just because you feel like it, it’s not going to happen. That kind of change takes time and comes from within. Then you get into that “acting white” problem (acting jewish??)

You are not going to turn Black kids into Asians, or get most any ethnic to become something they don’t want to. If you want to change a group, you’d need to find a way to make them want to be/profile different than what they are. And be careful, if you succeed they may be rejected by their peer group. Even their families.

Does this apply to 3rd graders? How about 8th graders? Now what about 11th graders?

Maybe we should talk about this.

]]>Its API dropped slightly (11 points) in 2009, but it rose by 61 points in 2010 to 733 (http://bit.ly/euzGC6). It also met all of its AYP/NCLB goals last year (http://bit.ly/fgSIb9).

]]>Both schools use Si Swun math. This is an example of how the Swun math method works in Oakland schools where students come without a strong background knowledge and home experience in using math daily (100% of 5th grade students at Seed are proficient or advanced in math).

Seed also has experienced teachers collaborating with and assisting new teachers. I believe that when the school was reconstituted many teachers left the school rather than reapplying for “their positions.” In doing so room was made for teachers who willing to try innovative methods of teaching and believing that all students could achieve grade level mastery.

I know that when I first started teaching, I did not believe that every student could achieve mastery of grade level material. I KNOW it is true. I have seen struggling students have the light switched on after years of far below and below basic test scores. For students who do not learn the way we are teaching, we need to figure out new ways to do it.

For all of those who decry Swun math – I was with you. But I see my students understand – when you write in red, pencils down, I listen. When you write in blue, I listen, then I do. When you write in green I need to be working with you and on my own. For the first time in decades in Oakland we have held students feet to the flame and said that math facts must be memorized – first addition and subtraction families, then multiplication and division families. Without math facts we get stuck in computation and plain arithmetic instead of mathematics. To compare it is the same as mastering phonics, phonemic awareness and basic sentence structure to read rather than just decode.

What Seed does so well is set the basic foundation in the primary grades and even in grade four so that by grade five students don’t just succeed, they excel. This is the work of great teachers, great students and supportive families working together to have students in class, ready to learn and excel every day.

Congratulations Manzanita Seed!

]]>Manzanita SEED opened a year earlier than Manzanita Community, but I’m pretty sure both schools were allowed to hire whomever they wanted in that first year.

]]>Teachers at the school must work collectively and use a focused approach at looking at students benchmark tests and focusing on learning for what the students missed. It would be interesting to me to see how the teachers at each school were selected. At my school right now, several parents are ready to file Williams complaints against several teachers because of real or perceived deficits in the planning and execution of the teaching in some middle school classrooms. I think if we worked and planned more closely and agreed to teach at a certain level for all students many schools in Oakland could succeed as Manzanita Seed has – however, we would all have to step out of our comfort zones – teachers, administrators, students and parents / guardians.

]]>There is a common myth out there that early academic gains fade out in later years, known as the Fadeout Effect among researchers – there were a few older studies that indicated this for head Start, but there has been better research more recently that shows that HS and other early childhood program impacts continue to give benefits into adulthood (graduates are less likely to commit crimes than siblings who were not in the program, etc), and the connection between low 4th grade reading levels and high school dropout is rather strong.

The problem is not that 4th grade reading levels don’t matter, the problem is that they aren’t getting better overall nationally (flatlining at one third of 4th graders reading proficiently on the NAEP nationally). So schools that do improve it like SEED should be applauded and imitated.

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