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Archive for the 'achievement gap' Category

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?

Posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, families, initiatives, students, technology | 3 Comments »

Investigators allege systemic, decade-long cheating in Atlanta schools

Have you been following the cheating scandal in Atlanta? Beverly Hall, the superintendent implicated in the recent state investigation, was named national superintendent of the year in 2009 by the American Association of School Administrators — in part, for her students’ rising test scores.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports today, the Georgia governor’s special investigators believe this behavior went on for as long as a decade:

Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

What do you think we, as a nation, should take away from this news? That it’s a mistake to reward or punish educators based on their students’ test scores? That it’s easier than you might think to game the system?

Are you surprised at the lengths to which top administrators went, according to the report, to meet their goals (and cover up their actions)?

Posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, investigations, test scores | 20 Comments »

Field trip to Sacramento

Last week, photographer Laura Oda and I spent the day with a bunch of middle schoolers at the Capitol in an event to promote high-quality summer programs for kids. You can read the story (part of our School’s Out series) here.

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, students, Summer | No Comments »

Notes from a long and eventful board meeting

Tonight’s — or should I say, last night’s —  5 p.m. Oakland school board meeting went till midnight. I observed so much from my ergonomically incorrect wooden seat:

The NAACP‘s Oakland branch showed up in force to register their concerns about complaints they’d heard from students and alumni about problem teachers, institutional racism and African American students’ opportunities for success at Skyline High (where a transcript review last fall revealed a whole bunch of students who weren’t on track to graduate), McClymonds and Castlemont high schools.

Teachers showed up to voice their support for retired teachers whom the district hired to coach them when they were first starting out. The retired teachers said they were told their services would no longer be needed. Superintendent Tony Smith said he had known nothing about this — and that he wished he had been informed of this development by his staff, rather than at a school board meeting. (Sounded to me like the program would be restored.)

Nikita Mitchell, one of the school board’s student directors, gave a rousing, seemingly extemporaneous end-of-term speech about education in Oakland, the “two Oaklands,” and how she and other students had been saying for years what members of the NAACP reported on Wednesday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
Under: achievement gap, adult education, budget, charter schools, English learners, literacy, School board news, students, teachers, Tony Smith | 45 Comments »

School’s out: A series about the summer

SUMMER VACATION

As an education writer, I like the summer — and not because I get to file all my stories poolside (though that’s not a bad idea…). I like it because it sometimes gives me a break from breaking news, which means I get to work on projects.

I have a few up my sleeve, and I’m especially excited about one of them: a print and multimedia series about the summer, itself.

You can find the first story (print only) here.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, families, health, safety, students, teens | 2 Comments »

Plan for Oakland schools up for approval Saturday

On Saturday, the Oakland school board is scheduled to vote on the superintendent’s five-year strategic plan — the product of 14 task forces and, according to the document, some 350 task force and community meetings.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the board room at 1025 Second Ave. It’s supposed to run about two hours.

How did you take part in the process? Does this document reflect your ideas for improving OUSD? What will it take for this plan to materialize?

In case you missed it:


OUSD’s strategic plan

The Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network sent out a news release saying it expected all four of its recommendations to make it into the final plan. They are:

  • Adopt and follow standards for family engagement to make meetings and events more accessible and parent-friendly
  • Improve training for parents who serve on school site governance councils
  • Establish a Family Engagement Advisory Council to give regular feedback to the district on ways to better involve the community
  • Hold monthly meetings with parents and youth in each of OUSD’s three regions to improve communication.

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, families, health, initiatives, School board news, Tony Smith | 19 Comments »

OUSD custodians start scholarship fund

Inspired by the superintendent’s call to action, Oakland school custodians have decided to do their part to help Oakland’s African-American students achieve.

They’ve sold Raiders tickets, organized a talent show and held a raffle to raise scholarship money. So far, they have collected $10,000, which they will award to 11 African American boys and girls on Saturday in West Oakland’s DeFremery Park, said Mark Russ, a custodian at Barack Obama Academy in East Oakland.

It’s the first year of the scholarship fund.

“We all started thinking, `We’re all big sports fans,’” said Russ, who led the effort with his supervisor, Roland Broach. “We just kind of felt like it was something we could do.”

For more information about the initiative, a partnership between the district’s Custodial Services Department and the AFSCME union, call 510-879-8352.

Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Under: achievement gap, college, students | 4 Comments »

Chronic absenteeism in Oakland schools

Last school year, 14.3 percent of Oakland’s public schoolchildren were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 18 days of school — excused or unexcused. As you can see from this map, created by (and posted with the permission of) the Oakland-based Urban Strategies Council, the most serious attendance problems are concentrated in West Oakland.

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The Oakland school district recently began collecting data of all of its students who were absent — not just those with unexcused absences. Now, principals regularly get lists of those students (those who have missed 10 percent of the school year) in an effort to get to the root causes of their absence and curb the problem.

Superintendent Tony Smith is scheduled to speak in Sacramento tomorrow at a forum on the subject hosted by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. So is Hedy Chang, of Attendance Works, who did the attendance analysis for the Oakland school district with technical support from Urban Strategies Council.

As we discussed last summer on this blog, the problem of chronic absenteeism is not just prevalent in high schools, but in elementary schools as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, elementary schools, enrollment, families, initiatives, students | 10 Comments »

Notes from the Oakland education forum

OAKLAND SCHOOLS 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. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, charter schools, school reform | 27 Comments »

Announcing … the Title I awards

This just in from the California Department of Education:

Academic achievement awards for 209 schools that serve large numbers of poor children and are closing the achievement gap. (Criteria explained here.) There are fourteen awardees in Oakland — 10 district elementary schools, four charter schools — and two in Berkeley. They were selected from the 6,000-plus schools statewide that participate in the Title I program for low-income students.

Last year, there were just six in Oakland and one in Berkeley to earn this distinction.

Here’s the list of East Bay awardees:

BERKELEY UNIFIED
Jefferson Elementary
Washington Elementary

OAKLAND UNIFIED
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, test scores | 40 Comments »