Pink slips, 2012: a different story

Last year by this date, 657 Oakland teachers had slips of paper telling them they were at risk of losing their jobs because of budget cuts — a traumatic development that hit some schools particularly hard. (When all was said and done, the district eliminated about 95 of the 538 full-time positions originally slated for potential cuts; adult education took the brunt of the layoffs.)

This year, none of Oakland’s permanent teachers received layoff warnings, Superintendent Tony Smith reported, saying the district’s reserves were deep enough to absorb mid-year budget cuts, should the state tax measures for education fail.

March 15 is the date by which districts must notify teachers of the possibility of layoff or reassignment, according to state law. My colleague Sharon Noguchi said other districts issued fewer notices this year as well. You can find her story and district-by-district information here.

Two of Oakland’s temporary teachers were laid off, and 16 teachers without tenure were dismissed (not necessarily for budget reasons), a number that’s significantly lower than in recent years. Two administrators received notices, as well, the administration reported.


The Oakland school district might be finished downsizing

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

I meant to post this story sooner: OUSD’s school closure process — which was supposed to last for two to three years and shrink the district by 20-30 schools — will likely stop after the first round, when the district is a dozen schools smaller than it was last fall.

District officials say the target changed because they are projecting a balanced budget for 2012-13, one without a structural deficit for the first time in more than a decade. You can find the story through the above link and read up on the district’s latest budget report here. The financial report will be presented at tomorrow night’s 5 p.m. board meeting.

P.S. Some have asked whether, in light of this development, OUSD will once again use adult education funding for adult education. California school districts are now — at least, for the time being — allowed to use the once-protected funding stream for any purpose, and many have spent it on k-12 programs. OUSD eliminated its large high school diploma program and its adult ESL classes, with the exception of Family Literacy, among others. I’ve submitted your queries; so far, however, I’ve heard no talk about rebuilding adult ed.

Two related school closure issues:

On March 28, the school board discusses what to do with the closed school buildings. OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said the district is considering moving the offices (including the Family and Community Office) now located on 2111 International to Lakeview Elementary, one of the five elementary schools slated to close in June.

UPDATE: Flint initially thought the future use of Lakeview and other closed school buildings was on the March 28 agenda, but it’s not. I’ll let you know when I find out more.

– Flint also confirmed what some have posted here on this blog: oversubscription of the high-performing Crocker Highlands Elementary School. Continue Reading


KQED holds town hall in Oakland Tuesday about the dropout crisis

UPDATE: Watch it live here from 5:40 – 8 p.m.

More than one in every three Oakland teenagers drop out of high school — a rate twice the state average, according to the most recent data from the California Department of Education from the class of 2009-10.

What’s more, Oakland’s black and Latino students quit school at significantly higher rates than the state average for students of their same racial backgrounds. Forty percent of Oakland’s Latino teenagers drop out, compared to 22 percent of Latinos statewide. And nearly half of the city’s English learners quit school, compared to roughly 30 percent statewide. (Click the previous link for Oakland data, which is also available by school and program, such as special education and language, on the drop-down menu. If you live in another California district, you can find the statistics here.)

As part of a national Corporation for Public Broadcasting campaign to find solutions to this crisis, KQED is holding a town hall for teachers. It starts at 5 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) evening in the Laney College Theater, and hosted by Glynn Washington of NPR’s Snap Judgment.

You can find more details about the event here. Below is a description: Continue Reading


Posted: Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

OUSD is hiring an unspecified number of teachers (a.k.a. “teacher leaders” or “Acceleration High School: Teachers On Special Assignment”) to work an 11-month year at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high school campuses. The jobs, which were posted on EdJoin.org late this afternoon, are open to candidates at other schools and even those outside of OUSD.

As most of you know, teachers already at the three high schools need to apply as well, if they wish to stay at their schools. (Unlike other candidates, they don’t need to submit letters of recommendation or resume — just the Ed Join form and a letter of introduction — and they will be guaranteed an interview, district staffers told teachers at Castlemont this week.)

The application window starts today and ends on March 30. Teachers will be hired on a rolling basis, said Brigitte Marshall, OUSD’s HR director.

The job description is mighty long. You can find the one for Castlemont here, and I’ve pasted it below. (I bolded the headers to make it easier to read.)

I’m curious: How many of these duties do you — and, from what you can tell — most of your colleagues do already? Which are less common? Which, in your mind, are the most (and/or least) important?

Do you plan to apply for one of these jobs? Why? I wonder what percentage of the schools’ existing faculties will choose to, and if this opportunity will draw many teachers from other schools.


Oakland Unified School District
Acceleration High School: TSA

Job Description Continue Reading


Starting next spring, CA standardized test results to come back in days

By the spring of 2013, schools will likely see how their students did on state exams within 12 days — rather than three months later — because of changes to the STAR testing system, according to the California Department of Education. In other words, the news will come at the end of the school year, rather than over the summer.

Here’s the news release that just arrived from the CDE:

State Schools Chief Torlakson and School Board President Kirst Applaud Improvements to Testing Agreement

CSTs and CMA Results Available in 10-12 Days Rather than Three Months

SACRAMENTO—Following approval of changes to the state’s agreement with Educational Testing Service regarding the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst issued the following statements:

“In keeping with the Governor’s State of the State address, the steps we are taking today will significantly reduce the time it takes to provide test scores to districts and schools. Beginning with the next school year, we expect both the California Standards Tests and the California Modified Assessment results to be reported in a matter of days rather than months, making them both more timely and more useful to our schools,” Torlakson said. “I commend President Kirst for his work with the Department of Education on this project.”

“Getting test results back quickly is a key priority of both the State Board and Governor Brown,” added Kirst. “This change will make our system more useful and responsive to teachers, parents, and students.”

Torlakson continued by saying, “I’m also pleased that we are moving forward with the transition to new assessments aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, including the creation of an advisory committee that will examine the wide range of tests now given to students,” Torlakson added. “This work will allow me to prepare my recommendations to the Legislature later this year about how to achieve a shared, long-standing goal to reduce both the number of tests that are given and the time it takes to receive them—and most importantly, give students, parents, and teachers the best possible information about their progress.”

For more information on the reauthorization, please visit the State Board of Education agenda Item 4 (EDITOR’S NOTE: I think it’s actually Item 9) at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr12/agenda201203.asp.

How do you expect this change will affect you, your school, and your students?


OUSD board considers charter school conversions tonight

UPDATE: The OUSD board voted 6-0 (board member Alice Spearman wasn’t present) to approve the charter conversions of both ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. You can find the full story here.

As a result of the higher-than-normal facilities rate the schools will pay OUSD to remain in their buildings ($2.50 per square foot, compared to $1.35 per square foot), their per-student contributions to the state debt, and the services the schools plan to buy from the district as part of a services agreement, OUSD expects to lose about $48,000 after it’s all said and done, down from the original $826,350 projected just a few weeks ago. (Note: OUSD will lose $4.5 million in state revenue from the conversion, but $3.67 million in costs will be eliminated, bringing the difference to $826,350.)


In January, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith recommended that the school board reject efforts by ASCEND and Learning Without Limits elementary schools to secede from the district and operate as independent charter schools. The board did just that.

Then, last month, the two schools submitted revised applications — and the district administration is asking the board to approve them this evening.

Why the reversal? Last month, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits principals said the district was interested in what they called a “partnership charter.” We should learn more tonight at a special meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. You can find the petitions and the recommendations for ASCEND here and Learning Without Limits here.

If the Oakland school board approves the charter petitions, the schools’ leaders say they will stop their appeal to the Alameda County Board of Education, which is scheduled to hold a hearing next week. If the county approved the charter school petitions, the county — not the Oakland school district — would oversee the schools.

What should the OUSD board do?


Team Awesome and Ice Cream Snails take on long-term problem synopses

Edna Brewer's Odyssey of the Mind team
Edna Brewer Middle School’s Odyssey Angels

Normally I try to synthesize and rewrite the information that people send me, but I so enjoyed reading these coaches’ descriptions of the international creative problem-solving contest called Odyssey of the Mind that I thought I’d share them with you. You can also find the “long-term problem synopses” for 2012 here.

First, from Steve Trowbridge, who coached an all-girls team from Oakland’s Edna Brewer Middle School (Brewer’s only team), which is pictured above.

Problem 5: Odyssey Angels
The Angel students with their special powers took on the evil Angels and saved the day for a community of hippies. The evil Angels were trying to cut down the sacred tree.

Roger B. Moore, a Glenview Elementary School dad, gave us this summary:

This year Glenview had 49 students participating on seven different teams, four at the Division I level (Grades 3-5) and three at the primary level (Grades K-2). At last Saturday’s regional tournament, each team did an eight-minute presentation on their “long term” problem and worked on an impromptu solution to a “spontaneous” problem. The four Division 1 teams worked on different problems:

  • The “Ooh-Motional Vehicle” team created and drove a working vehicle that could respond to commands and show human emotions.
  • The “Weird Science” team presented explorers on a scientific mission explaining the cause of mysterious events shown in a NASA photograph.
  • The all-girl “To Be Or Not To Be Team” put on a Hamlet-inspired musical comedy, in which playwright Wilma Shakespeare visited the future, argued with Stevie Jobs, and uncovered secrets of her past.
  • The “Odyssey Angels” team created a play in which a traveling group turns negative situations into positive ones.

Continue Reading