On spring break, it’s business as usual for OUSD board

This Wednesday may fall right in the middle of spring break, and on the first night of Passover, but the Oakland school board plans to meet anyway.

A couple of major issues appear on this week’s agenda, including details of dramatic adult school cutbacks and the closure of some of the school district’s preschool classrooms and programs.

Given the timing of the meeting, I wonder how many people will be there make it. You can find the full agenda here, the adult school presentation Continue Reading


Tilden: another ed experiment cut short?

photo of Tilden classroom by Sean Donnelly/Oakland Tribune

Tilden School is a fascinating study in special education — and, more broadly, in promising and potentially short-lived Oakland school district experiments. You can find today’s Tribune story here.

Tonight, the board is expected to vote to close the 125-student elementary school (a plan that might entail relocating its students to one of six different schools) at the end of the 2009-10 year because of facilities and enrollment concerns. It was originally slated to close this June, but parents quickly organized and pushed for another year to craft a stronger plan with more community input, which two board subcommittees approved.

One of the school’s biggest challenges Continue Reading


Hills schools? Not much of an Option.

Oakland’s school assignment letters went out last week, and the appeals line on Monday was long. Michael Bonino, the improbably affable guy who runs OUSD’s high-stress Options program, told me the first person showed up at 2:45 a.m.

All in all, the district’s Family and Community Office expects roughly the same number of appeals as last year — about 500 by the end of the week. According to the preliminary count, 84 percent of incoming kindergarten families got one of their top three picks for 2009; 92 percent of sixth-graders and 98 percent of ninth-graders did.

Here’s where the numbers get interesting (although maybe that’s not the adjective you’d choose): Continue Reading


Creative Use of Jargon 101

I referred to the closure of Tilden School in a post last week, but you won’t find that term on tomorrow night’s Teaching and Learning Committee agenda. You see, what district staffers have in store for Tilden is actually a “Restructuring of Instructional Program and Redesignation of Facilities.”

I know I keep harping on the dearth of plain English coming out of the central office, but I just don’t understand the purpose behind all of this jargon. Would any concerned parent see the Tilden agenda item and think: “Oh, my special needs child might have to go to a different school next year, but that’s OK, because her school isn’t being closed. It’s just being redesignated”? Continue Reading


Tilden Elementary School faces closure

photo from Tilden’s Web site

Tilden Elementary School might close in June.

OUSD staff have determined that the district can’t afford to complete the repairs necessary to make the school — which offers 16 special education programs — clean and safe, said district spokesman Troy Flint. Last year, I wrote about the lack of a functioning alarm and intercom system at Tilden. Flint said the school’s uneven terrain also creates access problems.

Tilden’s closure isn’t official, yet. The recommendation goes before the Teaching and Learning Committee on Tuesday night, and the Facilities Committee on Wednesday night — and then before the full board in March. Some parents are fighting to save the school rather than see their children splinter off into four schools: Bella Vista, Burckhalter, Brookfield and Howard.

Christa Dahlstrom, a Tilden parent, wrote about the closure today in her blog, Hyperlexicon: 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


Adult illiteracy

Nearly one in five adult Alameda County residents can’t understand simple, written English, according to a new estimate released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

But the state’s adult English literacy rate is even worse. California ranks 51st — last in the nation, behind the other 49 states and the District of Columbia — with 23 percent of the adult population unable to glean information from brochures, newspapers or other sources of information.

In 1992, it ranked 33rd. The recent study is based on data collected in 2003.

Neil Gonzales, a fellow education reporter who writes for the San Mateo County Times,  wrote this story about the report. He notes the obvious immigration factor:

In general, states with large immigrant populations had the most residents who were unable to read and understand information from such sources as newspapers and brochures or could grasp only short, commonplace language, the study indicates.

Well, at least the test scores of Oakland’s English learners improved this year. A program at one elementary school even brings in parents and teaches them to read. In Oakland Adult & Career Education, “mobile ESL,” an adult education teacher goes to the homes of OUSD parents.

One teacher recently wrote me about Oakland’s adult literacy programs, saying that in some cases, the older students need to learn how to hold a pencil: Continue Reading


Hills crowding debate: 20 months and counting

Way back in April 2007, I had the pleasure of observing the first of many sessions about overcrowding in a severely undercrowded district. It was on a Sunday afternoon at Hillcrest Elementary School, and boy was it intense.

Tonight, literally more than 30 meetings later, the board voted to send all Hillcrest-area kids for whom there’s no space to nearby Kaiser Elementary, a high-performing arts magnet school. They also agreed to eventually expand capacity at the also crowded Montclair Elementary School by up to 100 more students, which the school’s faculty council apparently opposes. No boundary lines changed.

You can find the presentation here.

Dozens of parents at various “hills schools,” some of whom live across the city from where their kids go to school, attended tonight’s meeting to voice support for Oakland’s Options policy.

School choice advocates take note: Continue Reading


Time is short for BEST, Robeson and Peralta Creek

Tonight, State Administrator Vincent Matthews decided to phase out two small high schools: the Business Entrepreneurial School of Technology (BEST), one of two schools on the West Oakland McClymonds campus, by 2011, and the Paul Robeson School of Visual & Performing Arts, one of four schools on East Oakland’s Fremont campus, by 2012.

Peralta Creek Middle School, which is in the second year of a phase-out (even if people at the school didn’t learn that, definitively, until more recently), closes at the end of the school year.

An emotional, historical discussion unfolded as retiring board member Greg Hodge, teachers and others traced the roots of these struggling schools to their much-celebrated origins not long ago. Continue Reading