West Oakland’s empty classroom seats

Here’s a sobering statistic: Of the 2,890-plus Oakland Unified students who live in West Oakland, 1,270 attend schools in other parts of the city, according to school district data.

That’s 44 percent, and it doesn’t count children who go to public charter schools or private schools — or to Berkeley Unified, for that matter.

What to do? A new group of city, school and county officials and community leaders has formed to revitalize public schools in West Oakland during a time of ongoing budget cuts ($27 million out of next year’s OUSD budget).

The group is called the West Oakland Brain Trust, and it was convened this fall by school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, who represents District 3.

Some of OUSD’s top dogs came to its Tuesday morning meeting. Superintendent Tony Smith Continue Reading


Kids and teachers, reshuffled

This morning, eight Oakland schools opened with fewer teachers than they had on Friday — and not because of sudden resignations.

There’s a word for the teacher and student reshuffling that happened today: consolidation. It happens when fewer kids enroll at a given school than expected and the school’s budget is in the red. Troy Flint, the district spokesman, said the decision is made centrally, and is done “as a last resort.”

In all, 11 employees were told to pack up their classrooms, and all of their students were sent to other teachers. Last year at this time, five teachers were consolidated. Continue Reading


Oakland’s latest list of “focus schools”

NOTE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint says that while closure or merger is a possibility for each school, the district is not planning to recommend this outcome for all of the focus schools. Other possibilities include increasing enrollment, support, etc. So, the same as in previous years.

OUSD has released an updated list of schools that have not measured up academically, that have too few students to be financially viable, or both. They’re called “Focus Schools,” but as anyone who’s ever been on the list knows, it really spells the possibility of a merger or closure. Especially now, when the district is looking to cut $27 million from next year’s budget.

The list doesn’t look much different from last year’s, even though the criteria have changed slightly: Continue Reading


It’s that time: Back-to-school giveaways begin

It’s not nearly as bold as the back-to-school strategy that Chicago Public Schools is employing this year, but the Oakland school district’s campaign to encourage timely attendance on Day 1 — Aug. 31 — includes the essentials: free backpacks and school supplies and a chance to register your child for school.

Have little ones? The district is holding two elementary school fairs this Saturday: one from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in West Oakland’s DeFremery Park, and another from noon to 4 p.m. on the other end of the city, at the Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center in East Oakland. If you can’t make those, there’s one from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Family and Community Office, 2111 International Blvd.

For middle and high school families, the big event (co-sponsored by Oakland Natives Give Back and the Oakland Mayor’s Office) is from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23 outside of Oakland City Hall. Continue Reading


Kindergarten enrollments in the hills

I blogged in March about school assignment letters and the spike in neighborhood applications at Oakland’s high-altitude schools.

Well, some people may have just been hedging by applying to their local public school. In some cases, the actual registration numbers at these high-demand schools — while still high — are lower they were back then, or have remained steady. Redwood Heights looks particularly overcrowded, but the 54 children will be split between two and a half classrooms.


Chabot 97 87 Continue Reading


So much for innovation

Much of the Oakland school district’s one-time federal stimulus cash — $10.1 million in stabilization funds and about $5 million (half) of the influx of special education money — will simply help to backfill the latest cutbacks expected from the state for this school year and next, Oakland’s CFO, Vernon Hal, reported tonight.

Hal said the federal money was “initially targeted for innovation,” but that plans have changed. He says he’s preparing for an additional $8 million drop in state revenue (about $225 per student) for the current school year alone, which ends June 30. (See his presentation here.)

“With 6 weeks to go, there’s nothing left to do but to backfill those resources,” Hal told the school board tonight.

Here’s the upshot of his presentation: 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


A safety net, unraveling before our eyes

photo of a final communications class at Lifelong Medical Care’s adult day care center by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

Today marks the end of hundreds of adult education programs for seniors and the disabled — in Oakland, alone. Across the state, classes that once provided a source of needed stimulation for the elderly are falling by the wayside. 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


Strike that: Adult ed is no longer on board agenda

After a request from AFT local president Ana Turetsky, the state administrator agreed to strike the adult education presentation from tomorrow night’s agenda and hold the discussion about the state budget impact sometime after spring break.

The postponement will allow for more public participation, but I’d be surprised if it delays or otherwise alters the deep cuts to adult ed programs. Many of the classes are scheduled to end on Friday, and the agenda item looks like an informational report on the impact of permanent cuts (and fiscal policy changes) on adult education, statewide.