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Archive for October, 2012

Another big donation to Great Oakland Public Schools PAC

This week’s campaign filings show another major donation to the Great Oakland Public Schools PAC – $49,995 from the California Charter Schools Association. That brings the group’s fundraising total to $184,980 — a staggering amount for local school board races. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, when the total was about $123,000.

The GO PAC is supporting three candidates: Jumoke Hinton Hodge in District 3, Rosie Torres in District 5, and James Harris in District 7. It’s supporting neither candidate in District 1.

GO’s director, Jonathan Klein, stressed in a recent letter he posted on an Oakland parents email list that GO is in favor of both charters and traditional public schools, that its staff and board members are Democrats, and that the group is being supported by volunteers from across the city (Policy platform here.): Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 83 Comments »

Weinberg: Rules requiring struggling schools to replace half their teachers are misguided

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and Education Report contributor, hopes state and federal education officials pay close attention to a new study about teacher replacement.

Steven WeinbergOne of the most divisive elements of the “turnaround model” being used to improve test score results in many low scoring schools throughout the country, is the requirement that half the teaching staff be replaced.

State and federal projects that funnel increased funding to those schools often require such staff changes, arguing that they are necessary for school improvement, while teacher unions and parents oppose them because of the disruption they create.

Now a study, reported in Education Week, says that provision doesn’t seem to make any difference at all.

The requirement that half the teaching staff of a school be replaced assumed that less effective teachers would be removed and more effective teachers would stay. It does not work that way, according to Michael Hansen of the American Institutes for Research, which has conducted the most complete research on such programs to date. The study looked at 111 chronically low-performing elementary and middle schools in Florida and North Carolina between 2002 and 2008.

According to the Education Week article, Hansen found that “teachers who left schools during improvement were not always the worst performers; in fact, they ran the gamut of effectiveness.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 29th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 55 Comments »

In recent school board meetings, an empty seat

Staff Photojournalist
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune

The seat in the middle of the Oakland school board dais — belonging to Superintendent Tony Smith — has been empty the last two board meetings.

I felt it was worth noting; schools chiefs do miss the occasional meeting, but rarely two in a row. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it happened here. Both agendas were lighter than usual, and the meetings ended early, by OUSD’s standards.

Given the often brutal tone of the public comment sessions, I doubt attending school board sessions is high on Smith’s list of cherished superintendent duties. (With respect to that imaginary list, I imagine most school board regulars — myself included — can relate!)

Of course, the recent absences might have nothing at all to do with his reception in the board room. Smith was traveling on official business both days, according to the district’s spokesman, Troy Flint.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 26th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Orphal: What my students are plotting while I’m across the world

This piece by Skyline High School teacher Dave Orphal was originally published onTransformED, the group blog for the Center for Teaching Quality, and is being posted here with his permission. You can read more from Dave and other teacher leaders at TransformED. 

Greetings from Finland. I’m a Skyline High School teacher who’s here to learn more about what is touted by many as one of the best school systems in the world.

Meanwhile, back in Oakland CA, my Introduction to Education class is following my trip, researching the Finnish education system, and preparing policy briefs for school reform.

A little bit about the course:

Skyline High School is organized as numerous small learning communities. I work in the Education Academy. (There are also academies dedicated to digital media, green technology, performing and visual arts, sports and exercise science, and others.)

In the Education Academy, sophomores start in my Introduction to Education class. Over the next two years, they will take Education Psychology and Peer Education, both taught by our academy director. The academy is populated by students who are interested in becoming teachers, nurses, counselors, or social workers.

About my students’ Finland project:

I am launching a three-year, cross-curricular project with my students. This year, my students will research the Finnish system and make reform recommendations to our school’s governing body. In the eleventh grade, they will take up the endeavor again, doing primary research at our school to see if students, staff, and administration agree with the reform proposals they have assembled. During senior year, they will pick up the project once more, moving into an action phase in which they will attempt to influence policymakers and raise funds to turn their proposals into real reforms. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Another attendance boundary change?

WEDNESDAY NIGHT UPDATE: The Oakland school board voted unanimously to put this item on the Dec. 12 agenda.

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The Oakland school board on Wednesday considers whether to put a motion on the Dec. 12 agenda that would address the oversubscription of students at Crocker Highlands Elementary School. One option would be moving the western boundary from Grand Avenue to Lakeshore.

Approval by Board of Education of a directive to the Superintendent of Schools to report to the Board of Education at its Regular Meeting on December 12, 2012, for its deliberation and possible action, recommended remedies to effectively mitigate the incidence of over-subscription of available kindergarten seats by children residing within the Crocker Highlands Elementary School attendance area including, but not limited to, consideration of moving the school’s western boundary from Grand Avenue to Lakeshore Avenue, as an effective remedy.

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted on Monday, October 22nd, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 47 Comments »

Oakland teacher goes to Finland to research school system

This piece by Skyline High School teacher Dave Orphal was originally published on TransformED, the group blog for the Center for Teaching Quality, and is being posted here with his permission. You can read more from Dave and other teacher leaders at TransformED.

David OrphalIf you are like me, you have been following Barnett Berry’s posts about his recent trip to Finland. (Find all of Berry’s entries, including the six-part Finland Travel Log, here.)

Barnett, along with Linda Darling-Hammond, union leaders, and other educational reform heavy-thinkers spent about a week together with Finnish education leaders and Pasi Sahlberg, the author of “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn form Educational Change in Finland?”

I am also heading to Finland. On Monday, I step onto the airplane. Organized by PDK International and EF Professional Development Tours, about forty American educators are going to meet with Finnish teachers, university professors, and the Ministry of Education.

Some folks reading this post might ask, “Why Finland?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 22nd, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

School lunch news: California poll, Kansas high school video, and praise for OUSD

Staff Photojournalist Jane Tyska
Photo by Jane Tyska/Staff

A recent statewide poll released by The California Endowment, a health foundation that promotes nutritious school lunches, found that 82 percent of students and 91 percent of parents surveyed support the latest changes in school lunch nutrition standards, overall. The changes include a greater variety of produce, more whole grains, portion size guidelines and calorie limits.

After hearing summarized arguments for and against calorie restriction, about 64 percent of students and 56 percent parents said they thought the calorie limits should continue, the California Endowment reported.

Students who made headlines with this music video parody, “We Are Hungry,” seem to feel differently. They argue that active students, especially those who play sports, simply need more fuel. (Some student-athletes at Berkeley High told me the same thing a few years ago, when I was doing a profile on Ann Cooper, who transformed the district’s lunch offerings.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 19th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Oakland schools, students step up to host candidate forums

Life Academy school board candidate forum
photo courtesy of Preston Thomas, Life Academy

Students at Oakland’s Life Academy of Health and Bioscience interviewed District 5 city council and school board candidates Thursday night in a public forum they organized.

Principal Preston Thomas described the event as “totally authentic and student-led.”

“This was a great example of what it means to be a full service community school,” he wrote in the email he sent to me afterward.

If you missed it, here are some other election-related events: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 19th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Big money flowing into Oakland school board races

Staff Photojournalist
Photo by Laura A. Oda/Staff

As we reported today, this Oakland school board election is a departure from past cycles — and not just because every race is contested.

The teachers union revived its political action committee after 20 years, throwing its weight behind Thearse Pecot (District 1), Richard Fuentes (District 3), and Mike Hutchinson (District 5).

But the $20,000 the Oakland Education Association PAC expects to spend on those candidates is dwarfed by that of another new PAC, for Great Oakland Public Schools. It had raised more than $123,000 as of Sept. 30.

About 80 percent of that sum came from two people: Former Dreyers CEO Gary Rogers, whose son Brian ran for school board in 2008 against Jody London (District 1), and Arthur Rock, a well-known venture capitalist based in San Francisco.

Rock gave $49,000 and Rogers gave $49,900 to support GO’s picks: Jumoke Hinton Hodge (District 3), Rosie Torres (District 5), and James Harris (District 7). GO has not endorsed either candidate in District 1.

The Rogers Family Foundation is clearly invested in Oakland’s education system — it’s given grants to district and charter schools, and it provided the seed money to start GO in the first place. But why would someone from San Francisco pour money into an Oakland school board race?

GO says Rock, who has supported (on a smaller scale) some of the group’s other initiatives, was inspired by all of the energy in the campaign. Rock wouldn’t give an explanation, saying in an emailed response that his contribution “speaks for itself.”

I talked to David Kakishiba about this yesterday. He’s on the OUSD board, but not up for re-election, so I wanted to get his thoughts. He said he welcomed the infusion of attention and money, saying school board races had been neglected for far too long. Do you agree?

Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 66 Comments »

Across the United States, a backlash against school closures

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group

Oakland, you’re not alone.

I found this story in Education Week about school closures in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. to be incredibly relevant to what I’ve observed here. It raises many of the points and questions that Oakland residents and school officials have been grappling with for years. (This particular story is subscription-only.)

The writer, Jaclyn Zubrzycki, touches on charter schools, gentrification, race, enrollment declines, and the reasons districts close schools: when they have fewer students and/or financial pressures — or in response to the idea (advanced by the federal government in its School Improvement Grant program) of closing schools as a way to create new and better opportunities for students.

Oakland Unified’s own Troy Flint even gets the ending quote, after he’s quoted as saying that all students from closed schools were placed in a higher performing school:

“Ideally, no one would want to go down that path,” said Mr. Flint, the Oakland spokesman, “but sometimes you have to endure some pain as part of a restructuring process to create something better and more sustainable.”

I’m still asking for the school closure analysis; I’m told it will be coming soon.

Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »