With two hours left of Halloween, I thought I’d post a video of some sweet dance moves on display at Bridges Academy at Melrose. Students at the East Oakland elementary school first put on this performance in 2009, after Michael Jackson’s death, and it’s becoming a Halloween tradition, says Linh Nguyen, the school’s music teacher (a.k.a. Mr. N).
Sometimes when I write about the American Indian Public Charter School I feel like I’ve entered an alternative reality. This is one of those times.
For that reason, I can’t tell you definitively whether an unauthorized elementary charter school will open on American Indian’s downtown campus on Halloween, as rumored — though it’s looking unlikely. I’ll just share the information I’ve collected so far.
Evidence that suggests a school affiliated with American Indian is (or at least was) slated to open two months into the school year:
- I called the receptionist at the school last week, told her I was a news reporter, and asked if American Indian was opening a new elementary school in October, as I had heard. She said, “Yes it is.”
- An OUSD mother who attended a recent informational meeting at American Indian said parents were told that a new elementary school would indeed open on Oct. 31. Continue Reading
On Wednesday night at Oakland Technical High School, the Oakland school board votes on a staff resolution to close five elementary schools, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. But the board is expected to be presented with another downsizing proposal, too: The faculties at two other schools, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, have voted to secede from OUSD and operate those schools as independently run charters.
Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in West Oakland is taking its science and math lessons up a notch this year — and to do it, Principal Roma Groves told me, the faculty is enlisting parents’ help.
This evening, the school held its first Family Science Night to let parents know about the school’s new STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) focus. Teachers led demonstrations while parents helped out or took it all in.
I didn’t make it to all the classrooms, but I observed a geology lesson and watched the liquid substances kids dropped into a plastic baggie turn into goo. And I tried some butter another group of kids made (pretty good!).
Jasella Jones said she doesn’t remember getting any science when she attended another West Oakland elementary school, years ago. Now, she said, her 8-year-old daughter Amunique Usher comes home from school and teaches her — and her younger siblings — what she’s learned.
“She always has important questions that I can’t answer about the moon and the stars and the sun,” Jones said. “Just imagine what the future holds, not only for her, but for her kids and her grandkids and everyone else.”
Michele Williams’ first-graders took home their ziploc bags of neon-colored slime — but only after solemnly swearing to take care of it and not eat it, or smear it on other children, or use it “as a rocket.” (I hear that was a recent addition, and not entirely hypothetical.)
What do your schools do to promote science and to involve families in the process?
David Braden, a technology prep teacher and Bay Area Writing Project consultant teacher at Oakland’s Bella Vista Elementary School, wrote this essay after learning two of his colleagues would be moved, or “consolidated,” to different schools next week — in mid-October. I wrote about the issue too, in this story. – Katy
The Merriam Webster app on my Droid tells me the word “consolidate” has three different meanings: 1) to join together into one whole, 2) to make firm or secure or 3) to form into a compact mass. I looked it up because today our principal informed us that our school would be consolidated.
Leaving the third definition aside for a moment, it sounds like a pretty good thing. Unity, firmness, security are all admirable qualities that would be welcome in any environment, but especially an elementary school. A staff that is united around discipline with consistent rules and consequences gives students a sense of security. If a staff unites around a clear curriculum, then students will have a firm grasp of what they need to know before graduating to the next level of schooling.
These qualities also describe what we want for our students. Continue Reading
The families at East Oakland’s Lazear Elementary School have come to a decision, says parent leader Olga Galaviz Gonzalez: If the Oakland school board votes to close it next year, as Superintendent Tony Smith has recommended, they will try to reopen it as a public, independently-run charter school.
“We’ve been working on it,” Gonzalez said about the charter school petition.
Lazear’s school board representative, Noel Gallo, says he opposes the closure and that he is no longer interested in selling the property. He says that if the board votes to close the school on Oct. 26, he would support the charter petition.
I wrote about Lazear in the spring of 2010, when the parents went out on strike, unhappy with the principal and one teacher in particular. I revisited the school a year later — in April –and found a much happier, academically-focused place.
Now, Lazear is on a list of five elementary schools slated for closure, along with Lakeview, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. Its state test scores, though lower than neighboring schools, rose 27 points to 714.
“That school has turned around, and now we want to close it,” Gallo said.
photo of Kristen Casaretto by Hasain Rasheed Photography
Did anyone watch Education Nation on NBC last week? It highlighted the work of three teachers, including Teach for America alum Kristen Casaretto, who teaches fourth grade at Think College Now in East Oakland.
Talk about courage — the segment includes a live video feed from Casaretto’s classroom during a math lesson. (The above link takes you right to the Oakland part; to see the whole “Classrooms in Action” segment, go here.)
At one point, `Today’ show host Ann Curry says to Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America: “In this particular school, the numbers — I’ve gotta be honest with you — are not great … but these numbers are going up dramatically every single year.”
Kopp responds by saying she saw “a whole different set of data,” particularly for math — numbers that put the school on par with schools in Palo Alto, a district often used to illustrate the top half of the achievement gap. She went on to praise the teaching staff at Think College Now and its turnaround.
Speaker after speaker, parents who came to an Oakland school board committee meeting this evening delivered this message: Kaiser Elementary School is a place where children and families who don’t fit into neat little boxes can be safe and accepted — and thrive, academically. That it’s an option for families across the city (those who manage to get in) who don’t consider their neighborhood school to be a good place for their kids.
The official school closure recommendations don’t come out until Friday, but Kaiser appeared on an early list for possible consideration. And comments made by two school board members on the committee, Jody London and Alice Spearman, seemed to suggest that the school was unlikely to remain open, even though it’s filled to capacity and financially “in the black” — in large part, because it’s not a neighborhood school.
Ninety percent of the kids who go to Kaiser travel from outside the attendance boundaries, and the criteria for school closure places a great emphasis on neighborhood schools and densely populated areas with the most need for a school.
“What I am interested in doing is preserving your program and moving it into another area of town…” board member Jody London told the group. She suggested that they talk to the principal at Emerson Elementary, a school in North Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood that is under enrolled, but she didn’t complete her thought. The parents did not take the idea well.
What do you think about the idea of moving a school from one location to another (where another school already exists)? Where has it happened successfully? What would it take to make it work?
Note: I tried to embed the video of the board members’ comments, but I’m not sure it worked. Let me know!
Here’s some more good news: Peralta Elementary School in Rockridge is one of 21 public and private schools in California — and 305 in the United States — to be awarded the 2011 National Blue Ribbon from the United States Department of Education.
The school scored a 937 out of 1,000 points on the state’s Academic Performance Index this year. Its African-American students, who made up about 16 percent of the enrollment in 2010-11 (down from 66 percent percent in 2005-06), had an average API of 857. Latino students, about 12 percent of the students, had an API of 939, higher than the school average.
Peralta is the fourth public school in Oakland (and the second non-charter school) to be honored for academic excellence. Previous winners: Lincoln Elementary in Chinatown (2010), American Indian Public Charter School in the Laurel District (2007), Oakland Charter Academy in Fruitvale (2008).
Other Bay Area schools to earn this distinction in 2011 were James Leitch Elementary School in Fremont; Ulloa Elementary in San Francisco and Ruskin Elementary in San Jose.
You can find a list of winners here.
Lakeview Elementary School should not run out of copy paper this year. Today, the charitable arm of the 78-year-old Lake Merritt Breakfast Club dropped off $2,000 worth of school supplies at Lakeview. According to the breakfast club, the savings will help Lakeview pay for someone to look after the kids at lunchtime — the kind of position that many schools have been forced to cut (or fundraise to keep).
Know of other school supply donations and drives? Tell us about them.