The dismantling of California’s adult ed system

Photo by Dan Honda/Contra Costa Times

If you look around, you’ll see adult education coming apart, piece by piece. That was the message teachers, students and administrators gave state politicians this morning at a forum in Richmond.

Not only were adult ed programs cut by 22 percent this year, but this spring, the state Legislature gave school districts the go-ahead to spend the money as they wished.

Faced with huge budget shortfalls, districts have been doing just that. According to a new survey taken by the California Council for Adult Education, 85 percent of Bay Area school districts have used at least some adult ed money to balance their 2009-10 books.

Alameda and Contra Costa counties alone are serving 15,000 fewer students this fall as a result of all of these cutbacks, according to the council. Continue Reading


California’s high school exit exam: out the window?

The 10-member Legislative Budget Conference Committee, which is reviewing Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals, voted yesterday to suspend California’s controversial high school exit exam requirement through 2012-13.

This is not set in stone — the budget still has to make it through the Assembly and Senate — but it’s unlikely that a cut already agreed to by the Dems (six of the 10 budget conference committee members are Democrats) will be restored under these fiscal conditions.

This means, of course, that next year’s juniors and seniors who have yet to pass both portions of the test would be off the hook. Sophomores would still take the test, but if they fail, it wouldn’t count against them, and they wouldn’t have to retake it. Continue Reading


School dropouts and outrage (or lack thereof)

I’m in New York for a summit organized by The Maynard Institute and the Committee of Concerned Journalists about the nation’s dropout crisis. (My editor couldn’t go, so I graciously agreed to step in.)

“Where is the outrage?” the moderator, CCJ Director Mark Carter, kept asking the journalists.

Carter wondered whether we thought readers might care more about the largely uneducated populace if the problem was linked to broader issues connected to it, such as America’s global competitiveness, the regional economy, taxes, or crime. Continue Reading


New dropout rates: Big progress or screwy data?

The California Department of Education just released its latest dropout numbers — the second year of data for a new (and supposedly improved) data system that tracks individual students with unique ID numbers wherever they go in California.

If you take the data at face value, the Oakland school district is well on its way to solving one of its most serious challenges: From one year to the next, its estimated high school dropout rate fell from 36 percent to 28 percent.

So I called Karl Scheff, who manages the Educational Demographics Office at the California Department of Education, and asked what we should make of this swing.

“It’s a pretty big jump,” he said, after a pause. Continue Reading


Good news about Oakland’s graduation rate?

Well, sort of. Remember the researchers who came out with that report four years ago calling Oakland and Los Angeles “dropout factories” because they graduated fewer than half of their students? That report basically said that California was masking its terrible dropout problem with lousy math, and suggested a new formula to calculate how many students made it from ninth grade to graduation in four years.

By this same formula, Oakland’s four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2005 was about 50.5 percent, about nine percentage points higher than it was for the Class of 1995 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


Study offers solution to Oakland’s crime rate: graduation

Extrapolating from research on the effect of high school graduation on incarceration, researchers from the California Dropout Research Project present us with a bold guesstimate: If Oakland cut its dropout rate in half, the city would have 805 fewer homicides and aggravated assaults each year.

The report also projects that the drop in dropout rate would give the city an extra $144 million in “lifetime economic benefits.” You can find the one-page city profile here, and info for 16 other cities including Berkeley and San Francisco here.

Oakland’s dropout rate, according to the latest estimates by the California Department of Education, is about 36 percent. What would it take to cut that in half?

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


News flash: CA schools are unequal

Tribune file photo by Ray Chavez

California schools don’t have enough funding and they provide “inadequate and unequal learning conditions and opportunities,” according to the latest annual report by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

The report is more of an advocacy piece than a research analysis, but it does raise (and answer, in no uncertain terms) important questions about the state of public education in California — its class sizes, course offerings, college-going rates, graduation rates, among other measures.  Continue Reading


A fair for school dropouts

Oakland’s public schools lost more than 1,300 students in grades 7 through 12 during the 2006-07 year alone, according to the latest California Department of Education estimates. The district’s four-year high school dropout rate is estimated to be 36 percent.

Now that they’re gone, can these students be brought back into the fold? We’ll see.

Dropouts and/or their families can learn about the options available to them at a fair held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Oakland City Hall. Those options include alternative education programs such as Advance Path, Peralta’s new Gateway to College program, Job Corps, and the East Bay Career Advancement Academy

If you’re interested in being a tutor or a mentor, you can stop by to learn about volunteer opportunities. Continue Reading


Deja Vu: The same school closes twice

file photo of Paul Robeson’s 2008 commencement

Fremont Federation’s Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts will likely have only a few more commencement ceremonies like the one pictured above. On page 33 of tomorrow night’s agenda, you’ll find a staff recommendation to close the East Oakland high school — the very same school that the state administrator already approved for a gradual phase-out, last month.

What happened? A possible Brown Act violation. The district might not have properly publicized Robeson’s phase-out in December, so it’s on the agenda once again. (State Administrator Vince Matthews compared it to Obama’s oath of office re-do, saying it was done “out of an abundance of caution.”) Continue Reading