Notes from the Oakland education forum


Today was the Tribune forum on education, held in the Oakland Public Library’s beautiful new branch on 81st Avenue. I’ll admit, I was unsure about how the day would shape up, or how the discussion on charter schools would go. (I’m way more comfortable in front of a computer screen, even under the tightest deadline pressure, than behind a podium.)

But now that it’s all over, I’m looking forward to the next one — in the late afternoon/evening, when teachers and students can come.

OAKLAND SCHOOLS FORUMI moderated a discussion about charter schools, with panelists Betty Olson-Jones, Oakland teachers union president; James Willcox, Aspire Public Schools CEO; Gary Yee, OUSD school board president; Gail Greely, OUSD’s new charter schools coordinator; and Stephen Sexton, co-founder of Lighthouse Community Charter School. Continue Reading


Oakland parents appeal to state lawmakers

A video about impending school budget cuts, from the perspective of families and staff members at Learning Without Limits, an elementary school on the Jefferson campus in East Oakland. It was posted on You Tube in conjunction with an Oakland Community Organizations event Monday at the school.

Warning: Viewers of the following piece are at risk of having a tinny instrumental rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” indefinitely stuck in their heads. (As a recovering Whitney Houston fan, I’m OK with that — well, for now.)


Tribune forum on public education in Oakland

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Oakland is exciting place to be an education reporter, and — for a number of reasons — I’m glad my boss feels the same way about the importance of schools coverage.

In fact, Tribune Editor Martin Reynolds has organized a forum on some of the issues facing the city’s public schools. It’ll be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the new, 81st Avenue branch of the Oakland Public Library (1021 81st Avenue — next to ACORN Woodland and EnCOMPASS schools). You can see the flier here.

The free public event — which, admittedly, is not at the most convenient time for people who work in schools — is co-sponsored by the Bay Area Business Roundtable, the Prescott-Joseph Center and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

It will include four panel discussions: Continue Reading


What the dog thought — and what it tells us about standardized tests

Now that standardized testing season is upon us, retired OUSD teacher Steven Weinberg offers another critique of the California Standards Tests.

Steven WeinbergMany people wonder why teachers object so strongly to the use of standardized test results to evaluate their teaching. After all, some would argue, student learning is the whole purpose of education, and these tests are supposed to measure student learning.

One reason teachers object to these tests is that they know what a poor job the tests do in actually measuring student learning. They have seen the tests and know how flawed and arbitrary they can be. It is hard to share this information with the public because teachers are forbidden from divulging the contents of the test to anyone, and they can be penalized severely for doing so.

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Spring break!

Photo from ShutterBugChef's site at flickr.com/creativecommons

My spring break begins tonight, with a road trip to the desert. It will be short and unpaid, but hey – I’ll take it!

See you on Monday.

P.S. The AP test score analysis is coming — but not this week, as I’d hoped. I need a little more time.


Oakland schools to cancel more layoff notices

A week after announcing that none of its elementary school teachers would be laid off strictly for budget reasons, the Oakland school district is gearing up to cancel more layoff notices — though not all of them.

Art, English and physical education are among the subjects likely to be completely spared from layoffs based on the results of budget cuts made at individual schools. Adult education, meanwhile, is the hardest hit; all 48 remaining adult education counselors and teachers are likely to receive final layoff notices, according to a resolution posted on the agenda of a special board meeting tomorrow night.

You can find the updated layoff list, by subject, here.

A partial layoff count (see above link for the full document): Continue Reading


An inspiring story, with lots of holes

As I watched the 60 Minutes report about the possible fabrications made by Greg Mortenson, the author of “Three Cups of Tea,” and the questionable expenditures of his charity, Central Asia Institute, I thought of all of the kids who donated pennies for the girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Have you seen the 60 Minutes investigation (embedded below)? Did your students or kids read “Three Cups of Tea” or raise money for the Central Asia Institute? If so, do you plan to broach the subject with the children? How?


Oakland makes national news – in a good way

When friends and relatives from other parts of the country see Oakland in the news, it’s almost always because something tragic or bizarre has happened here. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Now I hate to speak too soon — I wasn’t near a TV at 3:20 this afternoon — but I believe BET aired a piece about Amir Ealy and 22 other African-American boys in Oakland who earned perfect scores on their 2010 math or reading tests. The network used some of our footage (with permission) in this one-minute news brief, which is now posted on its website.

Here it is:


An Oakland school’s transformation

April 15, 2010 parent strike at Lazear Elementary School. (Bay Area News Group file photo)A year ago this morning, I interviewed parents who were on strike and picketing outside of Lazear Elementary, a school located right off the 29th Avenue/Fruitvale exit of Interstate 880. They said they were fed up with some teachers — one, especially — and with their principal’s response to their concerns.

I returned to Lazear this month to see how it was faring under new leadership. I visited twice, and must have talked to half the teaching staff about their experiences. I was struck by the power of morale (low and high) and trust in this school’s story.

You can read about it here.

(Below is a photo of Kareem Weaver, left, Lazear’s new principal.)
Lazear Elementary Principal Kareem Weaver (left). Photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group


So many students, so few counselors. But a student proposal doesn’t call for more.

The kids who enter Oakland high schools this fall will need to complete the UC/CSU `a to g’ course requirements to graduate in 2015. A major shift, considering that less than half of the district’s 2009 grads had done so.

But a survey by Californians For Justice found that nearly 1 in 4 of students at Oakland High School didn’t know about those requirements, and that 30 percent had never met one-on-one with a counselor. A counselor quoted in the report, “No Knowledge, No College: Oakland Students Rising to the Challenge,” said there were four counselors for more than 1,800 students.

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