Oakland teachers union stays neutral on tax

The Oakland teachers union opposed the school district’s last (failed) attempt to raise its members’ salaries via local taxation (“Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Act“). But tonight, union leaders decided to take a neutral position on a similar initiative, Measure L, according to union President Betty Olson-Jones.

“I think it was the best we could have hoped for, given the track record,” said Peter Fiske, a Chabot Elementary School parent who’s volunteering on the parcel tax campaign.

Rebranded as “Oakland Unified School District’s Student Achievement, Support and Safety Measure,” Measure L would cost Oakland property owners $195 a year and generate an estimated $20 million. Though “teacher” does not appear in the title, most the funds would go to the salaries of teachers and other school-based employees.

The teachers union, which held a one-day strike in April and has yet to resolve a contract dispute with the district, withdrew Continue Reading


How did Oakland’s charter schools do?

Oakland’s charter school test scores vary just as widely as those of the rest of  the schools in the district. Want to see how the state-funded, privately run schools did on the 2010 state tests, and whether their scores improved from last year?

Look no further. I’ve just finished compiling the numbers. (If you spot an error, please let me know!)

Click here for the spreadsheet, which you should be able to sort to your heart’s content, and here for the link to the state CST data.


Parcel tax for Oakland teachers, Take 2

Will two-thirds of Oakland’s voters approve a parcel tax that would generate about $20 million a year for teachers and other school employees — and cost property owners $195 per year?

Will the teachers union, itself, back the measure this time around?

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district, said proceeds from the levy would amount to raises of about 6 percent for school staff (“teachers,  teachers’ aides, safety officers and other student support staff,” as the summary reads ). The text of the Nov. 2 measure doesn’t spell out how those raises would be distributed.

Continue Reading


New study: Charters yield more satisfaction, but no better results than non-charters

Lottery drawing. AP file photo.A new, randomized study funded by the federal government compared the outcomes of students who won the admissions lottery at one of 36 popular charter middle schools in 15 states with those who entered the lottery and lost.

The findings? The lottery winners were no more likely to see improvements in grades, attendance, behavior or state reading and math test scores during the next two years than those who didn’t get into those charter schools (who, in many cases, attended the much larger, neighborhood middle schools).

With one caveat: Poor kids in urban areas did seem to get a leg up in math during the second year. Continue Reading


Red light, green light: Oakland district says no to charter, county says yes

The Community School for Creative Education will open in Oakland, after all. The Waldorf-inspired charter school won an appeal last night from the Alameda County Board of Education. In January, the Oakland school board denied the charter upon the recommendation of its charter schools’ office.

It’s the second charter school this year to be rejected by the Oakland school district only to get the green light from the county. The board voted 5-1 to let the Waldorf-inspired school open in Oakland, with Fred Sims voting `no.’ Felix Elizalde wasn’t present.

Last month, the county board also allowed East Oakland’s Cox Academy to remain open next year. In March, the Oakland school board voted to close the school, saying it had not lived up to the terms of the charter.

This also means that these schools will be accountable to the county board from here on out, not the Oakland school district.


Market research on how Oakland families pick schools

A group of students from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business want to know why some families chose an OUSD education for their children (and exactly how they arrived at that conclusion) and why others opted for charter, parochial or independent schools.

Their online survey is open until midnight Sunday for all Oakland residents with children who are 22 or younger. You can take it in English or Spanish.

The survey asks questions about perceptions of safety, cleanliness, enrichment programs and school demographics at each of the schools the family considered. It will be interesting to see those findings, as well as the resulting recommendations to the Oakland school district about its “messaging” strategy and public image.

Michelle Florendo, one of the student-researchers, pointed out a consequence of school choice that we’ve discussed on this blog before: “A lot of public school principals are finding themselves in a position where they need to market their schools.”

This leads me to two sets of questions: Continue Reading


Cox Academy charter: denied

Tonight, the Oakland school board voted 5-2 to deny the renewal of Cox Academy — an elementary school in East Oakland that underwent a controversial charter conversion in 2005 during the Randy Ward era — despite its 78-point jump on the 1,000-point Academic Performance Index last year and a room full of parents who spoke in its support.

Typically, charters are renewed for five years. But the district’s charter schools office director, David Montes de Oca, recommended the board grant just a two-year, conditional extension. He said the school was making progress and that he had confidence in its new leader and its teaching staff. Still, he said, he had numerous concerns, including the school’s history of “opaque” management and the fact that its African-American students’ test scores have lagged, falling short of federal test score goals.

“The school is largely an underdeveloped program,” Montes de Oca said. “I remain uneasy.”

Continue Reading


Six Oakland schools win Title I award


The California Department of Education announced the names of 238 schools that serve large numbers of low-income children and have made substantial progress on state test scores. (Interesting that this comes right after Steven Weinberg’s post.) They’ll receive their awards April 21 in Disneyland.

And the winners of the Title I Academic Achievement Awards for 2009-10 are… Continue Reading


On the agenda: Charters, protests and Tilden

Oakland Unified’s hard-line charter schools office says the district should renew its contracts with two schools: Oakland School for the Arts, a middle and high school located in the renovated Fox Theater building downtown, and Berkley Maynard, one of six charters in Oakland that are run by Aspire Public Schools, a management organization.

image by Nick Bygon, flickr.com/creativecommons

image by Nick Bygon, flickr.com/creativecommons

Also on Wednesday’s school board agenda is a “conditional endorsement” of the March 4 Statewide Day to Defend Public Education, which will include public schools, colleges and universities.

Translation: The district will support a “teach-in” and demonstrations before and after school — as long as the actions don’t “impede student learning,” according to OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

Betty Olson-Jones, the teachers union president, says there is not a strike planned for March 4, but that some teachers and students plan to be out of school that day. Others, she said, will picket before school starts or, possibly, take their children on a “walking field trip” to demonstrate.

Continue Reading