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Report: OUSD spent big $$ on consultants

No, this report was not written by the Oakland Education Association. Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute of Public Policy released it. Researchers found that as California school districts received more money between 2003-04 and 2008-09, they spent a smaller portion of it on teachers, aides and supplies.

If this sounds familiar, it’s an expansion of a report that came out last summer. My colleague Theresa Harrington wrote about it; you can find her story here.

Pop Quiz: Guess the amount that Oakland Unified spent on consultants in 2008-09, per student? A whopping $2,384 out of $12,946, according to the report, compared to $274 per student in Lafayette (the lowest in the East Bay). That’s 18 percent.

For years, the Oakland teachers union has said that the district spends too much on consultants and too little on teachers. In fact, OUSD has violated the legal requirement that unified school districts in California spend at least 55 percent of their budgets on the salaries and benefits of teachers and aides.

I blogged about this last May. In September, the district reported it had fallen short again in 2009-10, spending just 53.26 percent on classroom expenditures — $5.9 million shy of the state requirement. The number of schools in the district (more than 100 for 38,000 students) contributes to the imbalance, as each school must pay for administrative overhead, no matter how small it is.

Another aspect of budgeting that’s particular to Oakland is that school leaders get to choose how to spend their money (See Results-Based Budgeting). If they’d rather hire an outside group to provide services to students or teachers than a full- or part-time staff member, they’re essentially free to do so. And they often do. In other words, some of the consultant expenditures are decided centrally, but not all of them.

Critics of the report, who were quoted in Theresa’s story, note that district budgets have shrunk since the 2008-09 school year, or that districts have cut centrally since then.

I didn’t get a response from OUSD. Troy Flint, the district spokesman, says the financial department is analyzing the report and will have something in a couple of weeks.

You can download the full report here.

UPDATE: If you want to compare Oakland’s numbers to other districts in Alameda County as well as to San Francisco, West Contra Costa, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Jose, check out this two-tab spreadsheet. The first page is sorted alphabetically; the second by the percentage of the budget spent on the classroom, as defined by the Pepperdine researchers.

You’ll see that Los Angeles and Emery school districts spent even more on consultants than OUSD, and that San Francisco spent less of its budget on classroom expenses than Oakland. But the only local district that spent less of its budget on teacher salaries and benefits than Oakland was Berkeley (though Emery and Castro Valley came close).

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Hill Parents

    There should be middle ground between a teacher essentially having tenure with a seniority rules system in place and teachers being dismissed at the will of the principal. For all firings, there should be a process. However, there absolutely should be a way to get rid of teachers who aren’t effective. Those teachers who are consistent poor performers. Those who are incompetent. The deadweight.

    Everyone else should be protected against firing because of a comment or an unpopular stance etc. I’m mean, that’s just ridiculous. But there should be a process to get rid of those who aren’t helping kids. That process simply does not exist or takes too dam long.

    At our school, we’ve been dealing with one such teacher for years now. It’s even more awful now that we are probably faced with losing some of our amazing young teachers who are beloved by students and parents alike. And the only reason they would be sent packing instead of the incompetent teacher is seniority. Just how is this supposed to help our school? How is this fair to the students? How can ANYONE justify this situation?

  • ousd funemployed

    Re: Tenure for Teachers

    Part of the job of any employee is to not piss off his boss so much that he gets fired. Why should K-12 teaching be any different? The arguments above could be made by any employee in any company in an at-will state. Should the cashiers at the supermarket have tenure? Construction workers? Bank tellers?

    Tenure exists in colleges to protect the academic freedom of professors in a relatively unstructured setting, where controversial research is possible. No such academic freedom exists in k-12 schools. Teachers are required to teach to the standards. In fact, teachers in k-12 settings who preach there political beliefs to students should probably be removed immediately.

    Without tenure, is it possible that a teacher could lose her job to an incompetent/unreasonable principal? Absolutely – just like any other industry. If she’s a great teacher, she’ll get another job without much difficulty. Incompetent principals who fire good teachers for no reason won’t last long, anyway.

  • L.K.

    Hill Parent, There is a process for disciplining/terminating teachers. As a teacher myself, I get frustrated with teachers who don’t seem to be doing their jobs. It bothers me to see children I’ve worked hard to teach slip in their schooling in following years because of poor teacher performance. However, my question is what is your principal doing about this incompetent teacher? As I mentioned above, your principal can easily force a transfer of said teacher. All teachers in OUSD must submit to an evaluation every other year. Is your principal routinely giving this teacher a passing grade? Low marks on a teacher’s evaluation automatically trigger a process of correction and additional evaluation, which can lead to termination. The fact this has been going on for years, as you say, tells me that your principal has done nothing to correct matters. No one can justify the situation but your principal is the only one who can do anything about it.

  • L.K.

    Funemployed, everything that happens in a classroom is political in some way. Teachers absolutely need academic freedom. A few years back, religious fundamentalists were up in arms about journal writing in elementary classrooms. It seems that journaling encouraged too much introspection or something. How about a high school teacher who wants students to read something controversial, i.e. Huck Finn or Das Kapital? What if a principal were some religious nut that instituted morning prayers? Or what if a teacher belonged to an unpopular political party, never mind that that teacher leaves politics outside the classroom? I would submit to you that teaching is not like any other industry. It is not an industry at all, unless you are selling text books.

  • Hill Parents

    L.K., It seems to be nearly impossible to get rid of a teacher on performance alone. I think statistics will back me up on this (I’ve seen numbers on this board before but I don’t have them at my finger tips. It’s an absolutely ridiculous, practically nonexistent number of teachers who are actually removed for poor performance and/or incompetence.

    The process NEEDS to be made easier – not for teachers to be fired at will or because they got on the bad side of a principal, but there needs to be a way for deadweight to be culled from the pack.

    As for as the situation at my school, there has been endless amounts of documentation and meetings and yet this teacher is STILL here and probably will be here next year as well. That’s just wrong on so many levels.

  • J.R.

    Hills Parents,
    Negotiating is probably a waste of taxpayers time and money. We as taxpayers need to insist upon a new and fair system, only this time fair for the people who pay the bills and their kids.

  • L.K.

    Hill Parent, ask the principal why he/she doesn’t transfer the offending teacher out. Principals may complain that it’s nearly impossible but it’s not. I’ve seen principals put pressure on teachers and the teachers usually leave before the process pans out. Is your principal trying to be nice? Is the teacher in question a friend of said principal? Is the principal lazy? Is there a difference in perception between one group of parents and another about this teacher? A good principal can exert a lot of pressure on a teacher and ultimately force a transfer so I really don’t understand why this situation has been tolerated at your school. Maybe your principal is using the “nearly impossible to get rid of a teacher” meme as an excuse to do nothing.

  • J.R.

    “nearly impossible to get rid of a teacher” meme as an excuse to do nothing.

    This is a reality backed up by cold hard numbers. Why would a principal knowingly put his/her own job in jeopardy with complaining parents, just so they won’t have to bother with it, it makes no sense at all(the principals have nowhere near the kind of job protection that teachers enjoy).Principals are tossed all the time and teachers are rarely if ever shown the door, they are merely shuffled from one place to another.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/03/local/me-teachers3

    http://www.startribune.com/investigators/93201809.html

    http://www.laweekly.com/content/printVersion/854792/

    Once again I’ll tell you that taxpayers are arming themselves with knowledge about these issues, and deciding for themselves.

  • livegreen

    LK, I know of an above average school that was forced to receive an incompetent teacher who had been transferred multiple times. The teacher was reputed to have been so incompetent that they gave failing grades to most of a class whose students (many of motivated, educated families) had a history of success. When upset students complained to parents, and upset parents disended on the school, it was discovered the teacher had misplaced students papers, and had marked them as unsubmitted.

    The district would not allow the principal to transfer the teacher.

    Multiple parents there will not b comig back, in part due to this experience. Let’s hope the school continues it’s progress despite these illserved families who are abandoning the district. Such failures have real world implications for families, schools, OUSD, neighborhoods, and Oakland. Improving it is a battle, one that many do not have it in them to fight. Otherwise the improvements OUSD likes to promote would be made even more rapidly.

  • J.R.

    Question,
    If the teachers union is so wonderful, why do they need to compel(by force of law, and guess who paid for this law)new teachers to pay “agency fees” or union dues?

    Note if one chooses not to join the union, agency fees are still mandatory(at approx.70% of full union dues).What a mafioso racket that is(all legally purchased through tax money as well). Get this irony, teachers are actually fired by their union for not paying union dues. Is that twisted or what?

  • J.R.

    LK,
    If you teach, you merely return some of the tax money that is paid to you, so in reality you do not pay taxes because taxes are where your money originated.

  • L.K.

    JR, if you are paid a salary you are taking money away from people who pay your employer for a service so in reality your labor is worthless. Really, JR, your arguments are pointless. It’s called commerce, you dolt. Money paid for services rendered, whether I am paid by a school district or a private entity. In reality, I very much do pay taxes. It says so on my 1040 and on the check I write to that agency called the IRS. Where my income comes from is irrelevant. By the way, who are the half of the population who do not pay taxes and how do they vote?

  • Flatlands PArent

    Charters will take over.

    Dismissing ineffective teachers in OUSD is impossible.

    Transferring a teacher out creates the dance of the lemons. Lemons enter a functioning school and wreak havoc.

    Hounding teachers? Come on. Aren’t we professionals?

    Should there be a process to fire bad teachers? Of course. Should principals be able to fire a teacher for saying the wrong comment? No way.

    Bad teachers screw kids, parents, entire communities, and each other. What a mess.

  • J.R.

    LK,
    Irrelevant? Not in this reality. We taxpayers(who actually have to actively keep our superiors happy)by performing our jobs(by objective measure) at a specific measurable level with definitive results. In short we are paid to do our jobs, and if we don’t we are gone,just like that(we stand or fall based on merit alone). We are not forcefed money from a seemingly endless river of regressive taxation. As for the taxes I should have been more clear, as in personal or property taxes. We have a situation in this state where almost one third of public assistance recipients in this country reside in California. Counting the cost of benefits alone does not even begin to address the system and people that are paid to hand out tax money. In a very short time we will be paying the majority of people most of the available tax money for not working(between GA and pensions). Sorry I hit a nerve but the truth is the truth(it is what it is).

  • J.R.

    About voting,
    The education system has been in free fall in this state for decades(long before there were any reformers). If not for technology this state would have been busted long ago, but one our largest problems is the size and scope of government and the make-work public sector. We taxpayers can no longer support people who don’t produce, as a matter of fact our system actually encouraged irresponsible people to procreate and make more irresponsible people(these are the people that vote for higher taxation). These people love big government because it “cares for them” from cradle to grave for free(except taxpayers foot the bill).You teachers complain about bad parents and bad kids, well nanny state progressive policies are a big reason for our problems(eventually you run out of other peoples money).

  • Gordon Danning

    Ousd Funemployed:

    Unlike cashiers, etc, etc., public school employees are:

    1. The key persons delivering one of the most important services of the state;
    2. Employees of a taxpayer-funded enterprise; and
    3. Charged with safeguarding the rights, interests and personal safety of minors.

    So, it is in the public interest that teachers remain free to speak out when they witness improper, incompetent, or substandard behavior (such as, by the way, a teacher who teaches his/her political views or who neglects the standards).

    Here is an example: an assistant principal once tried to discipline me for making a statement in an email to her and 1 other colleague that I felt that a suggested plan for teaching students to complete a senior project would not work, because “most of our teachers are not competent to teach students how to research and write.” I wrote a letter pointing out that, as a tenured teacher, I could only be disciplined for “cause,” and what I said did not meet that criterion. Would society really be better off if I had been cowed into silence?

  • Steven Weinberg

    JR, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. In #47 you claim (via innuendo)that teacher unions were responsible for the rules governing the dismissal of teachers. That is not true. The rules establishing due process for dismissing teachers were set in 1927 when all unions in California were very weak and nearly 70 years before public employees won the right to bargain collectively. State legislatures throughout the country passed these laws to make teaching a more stable career and to attract more qualified applicants.

  • Gordon Danning

    JR;

    it is time to put to rest this silly canard that there are huge numbers of freeloaders in Calif because about how 1/3 of the country’s welfare recipients are in Calif. As has been reported several times in the press, that is because Calif doesnt throw kids off the rolls when their parents are kicked off. Thus, as of 2008, about 3/4 of the “freeloaders” were children: http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/jtf/JTF_WelfareCaseloadJTF.pdf

  • J.R.

    Gordon,
    I know things seem silly to you(you don’t worry about being unemployed, homeless) or things like that because you are locked in and the taxpayers “have” to pay you. Trust me though, the real world is a scary place and scarier than it has ever been. The welfare recipients being children “IS” part of my point, when the taxpayers are forced to subsidize people who can’t take care of themselves and then these irresponsible people become parents(this has been happening for decades)the problem just magnifies. Just like unemployment numbers, the exact numbers are played with and the parents still receive benefits for those kids, and they keep multiplying. The governmental support system for PA is large as well so it is not just about the benefits themselves.

  • J.R.

    Steven,
    First of all “good teachers are important” as are police and fire. The pendulum of pay,protection and pension has swung too far against the taxpayers and this is unsustainable in so many ways. This is a system where we taxpayers are forced to pay all employees the same whether they carry their own weight on the job or not(this is bad because everyone else must work that much harder to get the job done or worse, it just doesn’t get done at all)This is very much different from private sector where if you don’t pull your weight or better, you are gone almost immediately.These public employees are paid,good bad or indifferent drag on the system or not.We have reached a point that we are unable to meet our obligations(which were set by people who dont mind spending other peoples money)unless we just turn over our checks completely to and for public service. The rules governing dismissal have long been a hinderance to education improvement(complacency has set in system wide) for decades now. The last in/first out provision has hurt those new teachers that you say we all need. This system of having people who dont work for a living negotiate these provisions is just not working, and has not worked for a long time. I don’t know what that answer is, but we have to change or we will completely collapse.

  • J.R.
  • Katy Murphy

    Peter Schrag criticizes the Pepperdine study in a piece published today in the California Progress Report: http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/node/8648

    Education research, someone famously said many years ago, “is a soggy waffle.” Nothing demonstrates that better than the latest version of a Pepperdine University report purporting to show that, as one headline summarized it, since 2003 “California schools spent less in the classroom as budgets increased.”

    Politically, especially for tax cutting conservatives these days, it’s a great weapon. But as research, it’s hard to imagine a soggier waffle.

  • J.R.

    Steven,
    These are the facts that I used, and you didn’t tell the complete truth about union political power(you left that part out).I wonder why?

    http://educationnext.org/invisible-ink-in-teacher-contracts/

  • J.R.

    Katy,
    Things we know are:
    Fact 1: Education in California is over 40% of the state budget(this nation spends more than any other nation on education)the real problem is the kids are not getting the direct benefit of that money.

    Fact 2: Our average student performance state-wide is lacking(except in certain districts).

    FACT 3: Graduation rates are substandard.

    Fact 4: When the state had small class sizes(CSR)the differences were not substantial.

    We as taxpayers are not generally getting much for our tax dollars(systemically, and it’s partly because of the welfare mindset)along with educating children who have parents that do not pay taxes(legal or illegally). Whether the problem is too much admin or too many teachers, there is a huge systemic problem that is unsustainable.

  • Nextset

    What is probably coming is the end of compulsory education in Ca – at least at age 14 or so.

    Beyond the cut off age, education will only be state provided upon merit into a limited number of seats.

    We wouldn’t be the first industrial society to finally admit that only a portion of the population is suitable for higher secondary education. Trying to force that on everyone is a huge waste of money and time – and actually harms the lesser students.

    There is no more money for this anymore. We are going to be forced quickly enough to choose between state subsidy of food, emergency room & hospital care and unemployment payoffs, or continuation of wasteful secondary education spending. We cannot keep up the spending patterns in the face of the 3rd world invasion and demographic growth.

    As someone put it, you cannot have an open borders welfare state on top of a 3rd world nation for very long.

    Brave New World.

  • Jenna

    JR you are correct about smaller class sizes in general. HOWEVER – and this is a big HOWEVER – class size did substantially matter in the cases where there was a high number of English Language Learners, Academic English Language Learners or High Poverty students.

  • Cranky Teacher

    From Peter Schrag’s article:

    “Meanwhile, however, the National Center for Education Statistics pegs California’s in-class spending at 67.1 percent, above the national average, and above some 40 other states. The federal NCES data also show that that California is 47th in the nation in the ratio of administrators to students, 51st in guidance counselors and 51st in librarians. All those numbers are for the 2006 fiscal year.

    The difference, as Michael Shires, one of the authors of the Pepperdine study concedes, depends mainly on what you count. Pepperdine did not include counselors or nurses or the cost of heating, cooling or cleaning classrooms; did not include any of the cost of busing the kids to school, or general maintenance of facilities, or insurance and security, or the pay of cafeteria workers or a list of other items. ”

    51st in librarians and counselors!!! OMG, we’re behind what, Puerto Rico?

  • J.R.

    Jenna,
    I think we should be handling ELL’s a different way(English only immersion)with a bilingual teacher, and get the kids focused on English only. We need to end the practice of pulling kids from class to get time doing social studies in Spanish. This is a waste of time that could be used for core subjects in English. As far as poverty goes “we have reaped what we have sown”, and you cannot defeat poverty by giving people money and housing. They need a job and some dignity, since the 60′s people have lost their sense of dignity and morality and self worth and we have been and are paying the price for that now.

  • J.R.

    The people are no longer paying attention to the cooked books. The US outspends most if not all other nations, and has for decades.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2003-09-16-education-comparison_x.htm

    http://www.urban.org/publications/901334.html

    That is not to say that I don’t believe other opinions don’t have merit, they do. As a matter of fact the good and great teachers in California are doing a superhuman job, and I appreciate that. It is too bad some of their colleagues are a hinderance.This page verifies the fact that California bears a huge burden and cannot afford to have substandard teachers, as I said keeping inferior teachers because of seniority is shameful and wrong.

    http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/articles/article.asp?title=california%20comparison

    http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/articles/article.asp?title=california%20comparison

  • Flatlands PArent

    JR – you are right in every way.

    Can you please run edgerkation for Governor Brown?

    I’m serious. You’re right on every front. We’re cruising for a bruising. We can’t afford our public sector with the pensions – did you see SF Police Chief is raking in 250k a year in pension for life?

    Add the health bennies in education to the inability to fire deadweight teachers and you have OUSD wasting millions on bad teaching. A central office wonk told me that the collateral damage of bad teaching is huge, that lawyers and armies of HR workers are scrambling from one bad teacher meltdown to another in the district office.

    We’ll go the way of Greece before long because we can’t afford this broken joke of a system. The pro-union argument is so pathetic and groundless. IF you’re truly pro-teacher, you’re anti union and pro kid.

    Who cares where the rules came from. If it is tenured or job protected. It’s JUNK. And it’s not sustainable. GREECE, baby!

    Seniority is SHAMEFUL AND WRONG.

  • Steven Weinberg

    JR, I corrected one part of your argument, the origin of laws setting procedures for dismissing teachers. Instead of acknowledging your mistake, you bring up another subject entirely (the current political power of unions) and then accuse me of not telling the complete truth about it.

    Unions do have political power, thank goodness. The voters in California recognize that adequate funding for education is important, and that is why all the union backed candidates for state-wide office won, and those that endorsed positions you promote lost.

    For someone who endlessly posts about how hard it is in the “real world” and how employees in the private sector have to work so hard, you seem free to post at all hours of the day. Is your full-time job attacking unions? That would explain a lot.

  • Steven Weinberg

    In post #67 I mistyped the number of years after dismissal laws went into effect that teachers won collective bargaining. It should have said almost 50 years, not 70. Sorry.

  • J.R.

    Steven,
    My job is IT and I have a computer available at all times, it’s a requirement of doing my job. I have job tasks that must be completed, there is no fuzziness or excuses.I am only as good as my last day,week and month. Unlike teachers I have not earned privilege,and retirement and ownership of my job after some years. Unions were necessary at one time, but they have devolved into a type of mafia, just look at the auto workers(higher pay, yet lower quality work and more expensive product).No pride, no responsibility(it’s always somebody else’s fault), and no repercussions because of union protection. All anybody needs to do is open their eyes and look at the results, and ask parents has your child made progress this year or not?

  • J.R.

    Steven,
    BTW that article addressed laws and procedures, and they benefit teachers not children, and thats why they are not changed(and unions use politics to have any changes scrapped). Politicians are on the take, so that is no surprise. No ethics, no morals, to heck with the children just keep our tax money rolling in to the special interest. Bad news though taxpayers money is drying up, and you are running out of other peoples money, what will you do? When seniority is finally felled you can’t really use the excuse that less experienced,cheaper teachers are less capable because the results aren’t great right now as it is.

  • Gordon Danning

    JR:

    People keep saying things like, “the money is running out.” That is simply untrue. I, and most people, can afford to have their state taxes doubled. Would I have to cut back in other areas? Sure. Though I imagine that Californians as a whole spend more money on luxury cars than on state taxes.

    Now, would doubling state taxes be a good thing? Perhaps not. But the choice not to spend more money on state government is just that – a CHOICE. No one HAS to drive a $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000 car. Thus, it is not an economic inevitability that state revenues remain at or below current levels, and to say otherwise is a failure to take responsibility for our decisions.

  • Harold
  • Cranky Teacher

    JR, having done both, let me tell you something that should inform your critique of teachers: Teaching in OUSD is ten times more difficult emotionally, physically, and mentally than IT, and the working conditions are ten times worse.

    Of course, your mileage may vary.

    I am all for firing abusive and crap teachers. No child should be neglected or abused in school, especially by adults. I have seen it as a parent, as a teacher and as student.

    However, the system doesn’t have the will to do it. Since you are not interested in how we got here, I won’t tell you why I believe that is.

    If it did have the will to “clean house,” it would have two options:

    – Produce and retain qualified administrators who can see a meaningful contractual review process through to the end, and employ enough of them to manage the 10-200 teachers at each site.

    – Offer teachers alternate benefits in a trade to decrease job security protections.

    Carrots work better than sticks, imo. If you give teachers structured paths to improve or even offer retraining to get them out of the classroom when they are burnt out, that might also help.

  • J.R.

    This is a much better indicator of performance

    http://www.ed-data.org/Navigation/fsTwoPanel.asp?bottom=/Articles/Article.asp?title=FAQ%20Data

    From OUSD

    Student Ethnic and Racial Distribution
    African American: 36.5%

    Hispanic or Latino: 33.7%

    Asian: 15.3%

    White (not Hispanic): 6.8%

    Multiple or No Response: 5.4%

    Pacific Islander: 1.2%

    Filipino: 0.8%

    American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.4%

    OUSD has been at or near the bottom in performance for more than a decade(in California API numbers), and frankly, if it were not for the hills kids bumping up the avg this district would be at the bottom with LAUSD(and this really saddens me and makes me angry). lack of basic skills mastery, social promotion, and dumbing down of curriculum are all to blame for this mess.

  • J.R.

    Cranky,
    There were essentially no sticks before NCLB. From the late sixties to the present day we have collectively slid and leveled out. Every district has a budget(in name only), and the more employee’s you have the more of your budget is used. If many of those employees are highly paid even more of the budget is used up. You cannot have everyone be highly paid and expect to cover those expenses, it won’t work(you still have practical matters heating and cooling and so forth). Something has to give, like the small schools experiment with all the extra admin and teachers janitors etc. Schools in some parts of Oakland have extra expenses(security)and thats not cheap. I really feel sorry for the good and great teachers out there who not only do their job but sometimes the job of an incompetent co-worker as well. As if thats not bad enough they have to stand by and watch a noble profession dragged into the mud by some idiots who wont do their job.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Cleaning house on the teachers means nothing if we don’t clean house on the bad students.

    Actually, I’d do the students first. I have more faith in the teachers. And that’s not saying so much in this instance. The major problem with OUSD is the students. No one should be in an academic high school reading at 6th grade level or below. And I’d be willing to set the bar higher than that after I see what difference the 6th grade (using the national scoring averages) makes. It’s possible that a more than 7th grade literacy bar would not give you enough OUSD students to even fill Skyline. Or would it? Anybody have the stats on this?

  • Steven Weinberg

    Nextset, Students in California have not taken a nationally normed test since 2002, but on that test more than 40% of high school students in Oakland were scoring above the 25th percentile for their grade levels, which would mean they would be well above a 6th grade reading level. (A ninth grader who is at the 25th percentile for 9th grade nationally would score at least at the 50th percentile on the sixth grade test, probably higher.) That would be more than 3,000 students.

    Harold, Thank you for posting the links to Oakland graduates accepted in colleges. Despite the district’s challenges and short-comings many of our students are excelling and deserve to be celebrated.

  • J.R.

    Cranky,
    I already know how we got here, as I have posted before, we encouraged irresponsible people to procreate by giving them subsidized shelter,food,money and a means to do so. Now we are inundated by kids who are poor, and or live poor lives and don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. They just don’t care, because they think it doesn’t matter.

  • Turanga_teach

    Quite seriously, people, why does these blog comments ALWAYS devolve, whatever the initial post, into a pissing contest about the evils or non-evils of the mythological “tenure”?

    I work in OUSD with students on the autism spectrum, and even the one who inevitably skews conversations towards his imaginary cattle company has a more diverse range of comments to make.

    I get that there are folks on here who may have no other fora for expressing their concerns about our current system, and that writing an angry comment may feel like direct action. But reducing every topic Katie brings to your table to a rant against the one thing you’ve chosen to rail at honestly just makes you sound limited and tired.

    Show up at a specific Board meeting and make specific comments about the evaluation procedures: take it to the State. Write an op-ed piece and shop it around. If your kid has what you see as a subpar teacher, make specific noises to specific people, and then make those same noises to the folks above THEM. But please, stop making it look like every single issue in education is connected to lemon teachers with obscene job protections–it may be emotional, but it isn’t the reality.

  • Ms. J.

    Turanga_teach,
    Hear, hear!

  • Steven Weinberg

    Turanga_teach, thank you for making an excellent point. The constant rehashing of the same issues makes the site less interesting and will depress readership.

    Nextset, I’ve been thinking about the figure I suggested for the minimum number of high school students reading at the sixth grade level or higher, and I remember another method that could be used which would give a much higher number. The State Department of Education has used CST results to determine those two or more years behind grade level, and I believe they say that students who score Below Basic or Far Below Basic fall in that category. That would mean that only 37% of ninth graders in Oakland are reading below a seventh grade level. I know some high schools administered the Scholastic Reading Inventory to their students in past years. Those results might shine some light on your question. Does anyone have those results?

  • J.R.

    Not a reality?

    Example: SB 691, and SB 1280 – bills to lessen some of the “ironclad” favortism given to teacher with seniority “not necessarily better” just more seniority, and were both killed before any vote was taken.

    Example: In NYC only 3 teachers were fired for incompetence in two years(they really cleaned house).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/education/24teachers.html?_r=1

    I would love to know California numbers but I am still looking, and I wonder why they are so hard to find?

    Mythology? NO, while tenure is a misnomer, in the end the result is the very same and just as real as gravitation itself. Pretty much a job for life(no matter how good or bad you are) except in a few instances.

    It’s reality!

  • Debora

    Turanga Teach:I agree with most of what you have said. My daughter had the same third and fourth grade teacher. The teacher said that she did not know much of the fourth grade content herself. She taught little science in third or fourth grade, about three-quarters of the math in third grade, a little less in fourth grade, no reading instruction or reading comprehension and did not even test for reading fluency after the initial assessment at the beginning of the year, she did not teach the prefixes, suffixes, root words and word roots and she did not teach writing at all. If it were not for the student teacher in third grade teaching poetry – identifying different types of poetry and actually writing poetry – it would not have been taught at all.

    I spoke to the principal. We asked the principal to sit in on our parent teacher conferences, we asked parents who were credentialed teachers themselves to teach writing workshops, we appealed to other parents, we met with the principal separately, we arranged for the school site money to send the teacher to a workshop in teaching reading to urban kids (the teacher took the sub, had us pay for the course and she never showed up), and we talked to officials at the district. The only thing we did not do, and it is squarely on my shoulders as a parent for making this mistake, we did not file a Williams complaint as we should have.

    This year, my daughter had to take an entrance exam to get into middle school. The exam results specifically state that the questions ranged from easiest to most difficult and from grade three through grade six in difficulty and standardization. When we got the results we were nothing short of shocked. My daughter who scores in the high “Advanced” category on the California STAR tests scored incredibly low on, you guessed it, the reading comprehension portion, the word analysis portions of the test. What is unique about the results of this test is that you get a score, but you also get a plus for the answers that are correct and a minus for the incorrect answers. You see a series of pluses, then a long string of minuses (say third and fourth grade worth of minuses) and then pluses again. The last set of pluses are from a VERY strong fifth grade teacher who is attempting to make up for the incompetence of the third and fourth grade experiences.

    Turanga Teach: Short of filing the Williams complaint and going on television at a school board meeting, what else do you suggest? I am truly open to suggestions because I feel for the students and the parents that follow along and have the same teacher. The only saving grace for them is they will have her only in fourth grade. Please give me your suggestions, I welcome them.

  • J.R.

    Debora,
    I can relate to your situation, my child lost a year, and it wasn’t easy getting her back on track, but now she is. Do those teachers you discuss have reputations for being poor teachers(my daughters did) all complaints from several parents were brushed aside as well. I joined parents in lobbying the legislature for tenure modification(which was a last resort) because principals felt that documentation wise and procedurally the hearing board is always expensive and never a lock. Unfortunately multiple bills were politically gamed and never voted on(very un-American BTW).

  • livegreen

    Deborah, Write your School Board member.

  • J.R.

    Livegreen,
    Good suggestion, but I hope she gets more than the “lip service” and no action that our group of parents got. We were politely ignored and buried.