Former Oakland teacher a lead organizer for Save Our Schools March

Anthony Cody (courtesy photo)

Anthony Cody, an Education Week blogger and former math and science teacher and coach in OUSD, is one of the organizers of Saturday’s Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. March participants don’t like the direction in which education reform is headed; among other demands, they are calling for an end to the practice of using student test scores as the basis for decisions about school closures, layoffs and pay.

I reached Cody on Tuesday for this story about the movement. I also talked to Molly Servatius, from San Francisco’s Paul Revere Elementary, who is about to begin her third year in the classroom.

Servatius said she joined the Save Our Schools movement online on the day she saw the Waiting for Superman documentary about the failings of the nation’s public schools — a film that many teachers criticized as skewed and simplistic. She said she looked around and saw people crying during one of the film’s poignant scenes.

She was crying too, she said — but for a different reason. Continue Reading


ETS finds cheating took place on AP tests at Skyline

Education Testing Service investigators believe some Skyline High School students cheated on their advanced placement tests, Principal Troy Johnston told families in a letter he sent out this week that details some of the findings (see below).

The Skyline Oracle published a story in June about the ETS’s investigation into possible procedural breaches. In its report, Assistant Principal Marisol Arkin, the school’s testing coordinator, and other school staff downplayed the potential consequences of the inquiry.

“The worst-case scenario is that one or two tests may have to be retaken,” said Ms. Arkin.

Or 30.

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district, said ETS canceled 30 scores on various tests it deemed suspicious; the exams in question were in various subjects administered during a two-week period this spring. Flint said the rest of the results — which were withheld for weeks, pending the investigation — have been or will be released soon.

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Oakland Fine Arts Summer School: Your (parcel) tax dollars at work

So often these days, I find myself writing about the end of things. But city’s fine arts summer school — free for any child who lives in Oakland — has weathered the downturn and years of budget cuts. Why? Measure G, a $195 school parcel tax that voters renewed (and made permanent) in February 2008, in part, to support fine arts in schools.

The program moved this year from Glenview Elementary to the Fruitvale-area campus of Think College Now and International Community School. This summer, it has more than 300 kids from public and private schools. I visited with photographer Laura Oda. You can find the story here.


The future of school counseling in California

Staff Photojournalist

When Skyline High School’s 1,900 students return to school in the fall, they’ll have to see someone else besides a counselor for scheduling, college advising, scholarships, or any of the other things that once brought them into the counselor’s office. Faced with a tough budget decision, Skyline’s principal decided to do away with the entire counseling staff.

Some of Oakland’s small schools have long functioned without school counselors, but this fall, as many as six schools — including Skyline — could be counselor-less for the first time. (OUSD staff wouldn’t give me the names, saying it wasn’t final, but I know the Frick Middle School counselor was laid off, and Betty Olson-Jones, the OEA president, said Westlake might also be without any counselors next year.)

I checked to see what was happening in other districts and wrote a story about the issue. You can find it here.

What do you consider to be the most vital roles of a school counselor? I’ve heard some say that they are regularly given test proctoring and other administrative tasks (as administrators, too, have been cut). In light of the enormous student-counselor ratios in California (810 to 1 in 2009-10), how would you change their job description to make the most of their training, expertise and time? Should they be programming students into courses, for example?


Shop class: Are old school skills back on the cutting edge?

Shop classes (and especially the term “shop class”) have fallen out of fashion in the last couple of decades. But Mark Martin, an engineer who started iDesign-M, thinks that basic manufacturing skills are still relevant in today’s marketplace. He says they are important for careers in design and engineering, as well as (obviously) the well-paying advanced manufacturing jobs that our president is promoting.

I know San Leandro High still offers a thriving industrial arts program. What about other schools?

Here is a video of the free, two-week iDesign-M program that 15 East Bay high school students attended this month. This is the second year of the program, which is heavily funded with private grants. It’s held at Laney College in Oakland. A story about the program should appear in the paper next week, possibly Monday.


Cyberbullies, beware

Bullying is grounds for suspension or expulsion in California, whether it’s done face to face or through electronic media. And if there was any doubt that Facebook and other social networks came under the state’s definition of electronic media, there isn’t anymore.

Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose) introduced the Cyber Bully Prevention bill, AB 746, this year. Not surprisingly, it won bipartisan support and faced little opposition before Gov. Jerry Brown signed it on Friday, according to a news release from Campos’s office. (I wouldn’t imagine many politicians would vote against an anti-bullying bill, even if they didn’t like it, though some did.)

The new rule takes effect in January. Here it is:  Cyber bully prevention law

Does anyone at your school or your child’s school monitor social networks? Have students been disciplined after allegations of cyberbullying? Do you think this will make a difference in how kids interact with each other online?


Lots of new principals in Oakland schools

Twenty of Oakland’s 98 schools will have new principals next year, according to a list that OUSD’s spokesman sent to me this afternoon (with a caveat that there might be some errors; it’s July, and the fact-checkers are on vacation). This is the longest list I’ve posted in blogging history (See 200720082009 or 2010, though those weren’t necessarily complete).

Here are the schools that will have new leaders this fall, according to the list from OUSD, which is posted in full below:

Elementary: East Oakland PRIDE (TBD), Emerson, Futures (TBD), Grass Valley (TBD) Hillcrest, Kaiser, Parker (TBD), REACH, Sequoia, Bella Vista (TBD), Laurel

Middle: Alliance, Roots International, West Oakland Middle, Bret Harte (TBD)

High: Coliseum College Prep (grades 6-12), East Oakland School of the Arts, Freshman Prep Academy (this is new, part of the restructuring at Castlemont), Mandela (Fremont), Media Academy (Fremont), and Metwest. (All three high schools on the Fremont campus will be under one principal, Dan Hurst.)

Below is the list from Oakland Unified, with the principal changes highlighted in yellow.

Principals in OUSD (changes highlighted in yellow)


Oakland’s “Santa Claus of computer land”

Bruce BuckelewI thought you might enjoy today’s column by Dave Newhouse about Bruce Buckelew. The Piedmont resident and IBM retiree founded Oakland Technology Exchange West, a nonprofit based in West Oakland that distributes free, refurbished computers to schools and homes and training to children and their parents.

According to the OTX West website, the organization has distributed more than 20,000 computers since 1999 — and diverted more than 700 tons of electronic waste from landfills.

Buckelew thinks schools should use computers more than they do now to tailor instruction to each student, based on the child’s skill level.

“Not one size fits all,” he added. “There are schools that are going to 30 to 40 percent online individuated instruction, and 60 to 70 percent traditional interactive teacher-led, and they’re successful. We don’t have that model yet in Oakland.”

Do you agree? How does your school use computers in an innovative way?


With free admission, more Oakland students taking field trips to Chabot

Photo courtesy of the Chabot Space & Science CenterBuild it, and they will come — if you offer free admission.

As part of its business deal last year with the Oakland school district, to which it still owed $8 million for a construction loan, the Chabot Space & Science Center agreed to offer free field trips to Oakland’s public schools. (Before, it had offered a discounted rate.)

This week, Chabot’s director of institutional advancement reported that 9,655 Oakland students visited the center during the 2010-11 school year, a 35 percent jump from the year before.

UPDATE: The above figures include private school visits. For the Oakland school district alone, the increase was 41 percent — 8,759 field trip visitors in 2010-11, compared to 6,215 in 2009-10.

Robert Ade, the center’s communications and media coordinator, attributed the increased participation to the new policy. Before, he said, “It was prohibitive for some schools to even think about a field trip here.”

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