Oakland’s API: Big gains, bigger achievement gaps

California’s 2008-09 API scores — that three-digit number commonly used to rate schools and districts — came out this morning. On a scale of 200 (low) to 1,000 (high), the Oakland school district scored a 695, about 19 points higher than last year.

photo by Hasain Rasheed, courtesy of the Oakland Small Schools Foundation

The good news: I counted 29 Oakland schools whose Academic Performance Index (API) scores went up by 50 points or more in the last year. Futures Elementary School, a small, redesigned school on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, pictured above, improved by a cool 118 to reach 701. East Oakland Pride on the old Webster campus made a 112-point gain. And Think College Now — a majority-Latino school in Fruitvale with an English learner population of more than 60 percent — saw is API shoot up by 80 points, to 848.

On the other hand: The “achievement gap” between Oakland schoolchildren of various racial/ethnic groups narrowed ever-so-slightly this year, but it’s still broad enough to comfortably fit a double-wide.  Continue Reading


So, how did Oakland’s charter schools do?

Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda

You wanted to know how the city’s independently run, publicly funded schools performed on the 2009 state tests. Here’s your answer, courtesy of the OUSD Charter Schools Office.

Of the 27 charters that were around in 2008, 15 made significant gains in both English and math.

The charters with the biggest up-swings were Continue Reading


Test score gains: more knowledge or better prep?

Between 2008 and 2009, 80 percent of Oakland’s elementary schools improved their scores in math AND in English language arts, according to a school district analysis. (A list of the most-improved schools is posted below.)

Oakland’s not alone in its upward trend. On the page 4 and 7 of this news release, you’ll see increases in English and math scores, statewide, especially in the early grades.

John Boivin, who administers the STAR Program Office at the California Department of Education, said there were no major changes this year in the test, itself, or in the scoring of it. He said his team hadn’t yet drawn any conclusions about why the scores went up.

Boivin did say, though, that the law only requires the state to change half of the questions on each test from one year to the next. In other words, experienced teachers have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be on it. Continue Reading


The test results are in. How did your school do?

First things first: You can find out how your state, county, district, school and/or grade did on California’s 2009 spring standardized tests by clicking here.

If you want schoolwide scores (rather than grade by grade) for Oakland, you’re in luck. Once again, the Oakland school district’s number crunchers have come through by compiling a very readable and informative spreadsheet that looks at results, by school, for English language arts and math.

The right half of the spreadsheet shows the percentage of students who showed proficiency in math or English, as well as the percentage-point change from last year. (Green is good. Red is not.) The left half shows the percentage of kids who scored poorly on the tests.  Continue Reading


Free digital textbooks are up: Any takers?

Remember Arnold’s digital textbook initiative that we discussed in June?

Well, a review of 16 of these newfangled `books’ came out yesterday, and the materials — all free — are posted online.

It looks like they’re all for high school math and science: geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology/life science and earth science.

Ten of the textbooks reviewed covered at least 90 percent of the state content standards for the subject, and four met all of them. Only three of the 16 really bombed the review. (Step it up, Earth Systems!) Continue Reading


New principals and a $1.8m math contract

The Oakland school board is back in business. It holds a special meeting at 5 p.m. this evening with the district’s new superintendent to talk strategic priorities, and it met on Saturday as well.

A couple of things on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the first regular session since June:

  • A new personnel report, in which I learned: Matthew Duffy, the Elmhurst Community Prep principal I profiled in May, is now a Network Executive Officer; Duffy’s assistant principal, Laura Robell, has become acting principal; Elyata Davis is acting principal of REACH; and Claude Jenkins is acting principal of Youth Empowerment School. (The Skyline High School appointment is conspicuously absent, unless I missed it somehow.)
  • A hefty $1.78 million, one-year contract for Swun Math, a program first piloted at a handful of elementary schools. This year, if the contract is approved, Swun Math will be in place at 35 elementary and 18 middle schools throughout the district. 

Most of the schools using the Swun Math method have seen their test scores rise significantly, according to the charts in this district presentation.

Continue Reading


A passion for math, science and new ideas

Alanna Reyes is one of 66 teens who spent five weeks immersed in math and science at UC Berkeley this summer. The senior at at Lynbrook High School in San Jose describes her experience at SMASH, an honors program for low-income students. -Katy

courtesy photo

“Is that Relient K? I love that band!” I said to my roommate.

“Yes, it is Relient K. I thought the song fit the weather this week,” she said as she started singing the words. “And on and off, the clouds have fought for control over the sky…”

I looked at the cloudy sky outside of our dormitory window. Even the gloomy day couldn’t dampen my excitement about getting out of the dorm room and meeting the other SMASH scholars before class. It was July, and I was spending five weeks of my summer at UC Berkeley’s campus with more than 60 other high school students.

More than an academic program, SMASH had become a supportive community for me. Not only do SMASH scholars have access to teachers every night during tutorials for two whole hours outside of class, we draw strength and support from other scholars and our Resident Assistants.

Speaking of tutorials, it was time for me to leave the dorm and get to the Tech II tutorial in LeConte Hall. Continue Reading


Algebra, all summer long


I spent one morning last week brushing up on my order of operations and other elemental algebraic concepts at Oakland Technical High School. Riveting stuff, and they do it for hours each day. The teachers break it up with various activities and challenges, though, and I never knew a math classroom could look so inviting.

Here’s one small aha! moment I overheard between a teacher named Mr. McCann and a boy who was momentarily stumped about adding positive and negative numbers:

McCann: “Think about it as a football game. You lost seven yards on the first play and then you gained four on the second play.”

Student: (pause) “Negative three?”

There are 11 8 of these summer algebra academies serving children from 11 Oakland high schools and middle schools. The kids at Oakland Tech had already taken Algebra I in eighth grade, but they will retake it next year. Other academies are designed to prep incoming eighth graders who will take it for the first time in the fall.

This is all part of a big push in Oakland Unified to help kids pass Algebra I earlier — and to do away with “tracking” by having almost all kids take Algebra I (as opposed to a slowed down version) by the eighth grade, a move our governor would definitely support. Continue Reading


Don’t call them nerds! Geometry prowess at an Oakland middle school

There’s been a big push lately to have all students take Algebra I in eighth grade. A group of kids at Urban Promise Academy, a middle school serving kids from the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods, have taken it a step further. Their teacher, Abby Paske, shares her story with us. -Katy

photo courtesy of Abby Paske, Urban Promise Academy

After months of hard work and dedication, the eighth-grade geometry class at Urban Promise Academy Middle school is first in the district. 100 percent of students passed the district’s spring assessment, and 83 percent of them achieved a mark of exceeding. The next closest school had a mere 50 percent of students achieving the mark of exceeding.

Urban Promise Academy, or UPA, is an urban school in California where over 80 percent of the students at the school receive free or reduced lunch. It is a small school by design, with the mission of preparing students for college and beyond.

After ranking second in the district mid-term assessments, UPA students were excited, but hesitant about their ultimate success. Continue Reading