National math and reading scores rise

In fact, the average 2008 math scores for 9- and 13-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are higher than they have been since 1973, according to data released in The Nation’s Report Card.

The average reading scores of 9-year-old black, white and Latino students across the United States also reached a new high. The reading scores for the other two age groups tested — 13 and 17 — have improved since 2004. Continue Reading


Study: Exit exam hurts girls and minorities

Researchers with Stanford University’s Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice found that the graduation rates of girls and non-white students have plummeted as a result of California’s high school exit exam requirement.

Looking at four California school districts, researchers analyzed the graduation rates and other data for kids who tested poorly (in the bottom fourth of all students) on standardized reading and math tests that they took earlier, in the eighth and ninth grades.

The study compared what happened to those low-performing students in the Class of 2005 — before the new graduation requirement took effect — with similar students at the same schools in the classes of 2006 and 2007. 

Continue Reading


A feel-good program that works

In these tough economic times (or maybe before, for all I know), Oakland school board members are quick to tell us that they can’t make decisions based on what “feels good.” 

Well, a study released today by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis tells us that one program used in Oakland — Experience Corps, a school tutoring program with volunteers older than 55 — does more than that.

Tribune file photo by Diana Diroy

Continue Reading


Should Oakland stiffen its grad requirements?

Education Trust-West thinks so, and so does Brad Stam, OUSD’s chief academic officer.

Right now, less than 40 percent of Oakland’s high school seniors graduate with the requirements needed to attend a state university. At some local schools, Ed Trust reports, barely more than half of the classes offered count toward those 15 course requirements, known in the education world as “A to G.”

photo by Alison Yin

There seems to be a movement afoot to adopt those college requirements — a `C’ grade or better on all 15 “A to G” courses — as the new standard for graduating high school in Oakland. Continue Reading


Square Root Day is upon us

photo from magnetbox’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Tomorrow might seem like any other Tuesday. But to a small group of math enthusiasts, it’s a day that only comes along once every five — or seven, or nine, or 23 — years. That’s because it’s March 3, 2009 (3/3/09, if you will) — and, as I’m sure most of you are well aware, three is the square of nine. Continue Reading


How should teachers be measured?

image from kevindooley’s site on flickr.com/creativecommons

Earlier this week, an Education Report reader sent me a link to a recent piece by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, titled, “Our Greatest National Shame.” He was referring, of course, to education in the United States.

The reader said he found most of the column “unremarkable” (especially, I’m sure, when compared to the lofty prose spewing from this keyboard), but Kristof cited two studies that piqued his interest. The reports were about teacher effectiveness, and they made this reader wonder how teacher talent should be measured in public schools, including those in OUSD.

Parent evaluations? Student test score gains? Classroom observations?

For all of the debate about teacher preparation and proper credentialing, some researchers say that those things seem to make little difference. In other words, that it’s hard to tell who’s going to be a good teacher until they start teaching. Continue Reading


Math raps: the next edu-fad?

Who says music is disappearing from public schools? Well maybe it is, but at least Alex Kajitani’s middle school kids in Escondido, Calif. are learning to bust a rhyme in math class.

Kajitani, who developed “The Rappin’-Mathematician” curriculum, is in the running for National Teacher of the Year.

Here’s the inner-city-school-turnaround story behind it, as told on his Web site:

Alex Kajitani was a struggling new teacher at a tough, inner-city school in San Diego. As the students came in each day unable to remember simple math concepts from the day before, yet singing every word to the new rap song on the radio, he realized he needed a new approach. Fed up with the students coming in rapping lyrics about violence, drug use, and mistreating women, he began to perform rap songs about the math he was teaching. Continue Reading


`No Child’ turns seven

It’s Elvis’s birthday, too, judging from the plastic bust that appeared in the middle of the newsroom today. But I digress.

With the presidential election behind us, efforts to reauthorize and re-shape the landmark education law might start up again in earnest.

Many of you have watched public education transform because of NCLB. What’s different, and what has stayed the same? What in the act, if anything, would you keep in place, and what would you pitch? 

If nothing else, hasn’t NCLB focused more attention on children who have historically been failed by the system? I guess the real question is whether that attention has helped those kids and the schools they attend, and how progress should be measured.

Here’s what American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten had to say: Continue Reading


Algebra I mandate stopped in court

Judge Shelleyanne Chang might have just dashed Gov. Schwarzenegger’s dreams of testing all kids in Algebra I by the eighth grade.

In July, the State Board of Education approved the governor’s 11th-hour algebra proposal over the strong objections of California’s top ranking education official, Jack O’Connell.

But today, the Sacramento County Superior Court judge stopped the implementation of this sweeping policy. You can read her 5-page ruling here.

Among other things, Chang said the State Board of Education didn’t give Joe Public much notice that this was all going down: Continue Reading


High stakes multiplication

This morning, 20 of Oakland’s best 8-year-old math students strutted into Lafayette Elementary School’s auditorium to adrenaline music and applause. It sort of felt like that moment before a big boxing match or basketball game, when the competitors enter the arena in their warmups.

Photos by Laura A. Oda/Oakland Tribune

The organizers of OUSD’s first math competition of its kind were careful to say, over and over, that everyone was a winner. All of the kids had already out-multiplied the other third-graders at their schools, so it wasn’t just a platitude. But you could see, in their eyes or in the cross of their fingers, how much they wanted to win it all.

The room fell still as the rules were explained: Erase your last answer. Start the problem. Markers down. Repeat. Continue Reading