Paying for college: looking for stories

Recently, my colleague Matt Krupnick wrote a story about the ever-rising cost of tuition at California’s state universities. It’s cheaper for a student from a middle-income family to go to Harvard (or other top private colleges) than to CSU East Bay, he found.

Now that many of the acceptance letters have arrived in the mail, another fellow reporter, Sharon Noguchi, is writing about families of high school seniors who are figuring out what they can afford and how to pay for it. She wants to talk to people from Oakland and elsewhere in the East Bay about the choices they’re making to finance a higher education.

TELL US: How you’re preparing for this massive expense?

If you’re in this situation — or know an East Bay family with a college-bound high school senior — I hope you’ll consider sharing your perspective with Sharon. You can reach her at snoguchi@mercurynews.com.


Will OUSD back off its high school reforms?

9 P.M. UPDATE: So far, Gallo has not made the below motion on the TSAs. His focus has been on supporting Lazear Elementary School’s charter school conversion.

UPDATE: OUSD board member Noel Gallo has confirmed that he might introduce a motion tonight to direct Superintendent Tony Smith to back off the teacher-on-special-assignment plan and negotiate a solution with the teachers union.

“Right now, there’s too much divisiveness going on,” he said.

Do you agree? What do you think about the timing of all of this — right before the hiring decisions are supposed to be announced? If he does introduce the motion, he’d need three of his colleagues to vote for it.

P.S. We’re hearing Occupy Oakland will be occupying the meeting too.


The Oakland Education Association is holding a rally today to protest the district’s decision to have teachers at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds apply for a new, 11-month teaching position if they want to remain on those campuses. (In case I haven’t reminded you enough, the Tribune is holding a forum tomorrow on this very issue.)

Do you agree with the below assessment that the district’s plan is “the latest corporate-inspired flavor of the month,” rather than a real solution?

Here’s the news release: Continue Reading


High school students campaign for free in-state tuition in CA

Monica Mendoza, a 2011 graduate of Oakland’s Life Academy and a student at Hayward’s Chabot College, wrote the below piece about a ballot initiative she helped to write. College for California would make state universities free for most full-time, in-state students. The initiative still needs more than 800,000 signatures to qualify for a future ballot. We just posted this story on the effort — and on volunteer-based ballot initiatives in general.

College for California
photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

It all started with a lesson that our math teacher Mr. B (Boettner) had given us during the fall semester of our senior year. We’d just finished completing our college applications. The next thing on our minds was how were we going to pay for college? He gave us a lesson on college tuition and how much it had increased throughout the years. It was astounding seeing the huge difference in tuition between the 1970s and now.

I know personally it had me worried. I was worried because my family is low income. Our income is about $12,900, lower than tuition at a UC. I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to pay for everything without having to get loans. I knew my parents were also worried about how they’d be able to help me as well. It was all really scary, especially being the first one in my family to go to college and not having anybody else in my family that I’d be able to look up to or ask for help.

Mr. B had then asked if a couple of students would be interested in being leaders in creating a ballot initiative. Continue Reading


Tribune forum on March 29: Join us!

On Thursday, March 29, the Oakland Tribune is holding a public forum to delve into the issue that has elicited more than 150 comments on this blog: the Oakland school district’s decision to create a new teaching position on three of its high school campuses, and to require even current teachers to apply for the job if they want to stay.

I’ll be moderating the panel discussion. We’ll have a Q & A section at the end, so bring your insights and questions. You’re also welcome to post them here, if you can’t make it. I hope to see you there!

WHEN: 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. Thursday, March 29
WHERE: 81st Avenue branch of the Oakland Public Library, 1021 81st Ave. (at Rudsdale)
CONFIRMED PANELISTS: Superintendent Tony Smith; Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones; Castlemont (EOSA) teacher Timothy Bremner; Fremont (Media Academy) teacher Howard Ruffner; Fremont (Media Academy) student Diego Garcia


KQED holds town hall in Oakland Tuesday about the dropout crisis

UPDATE: Watch it live here from 5:40 – 8 p.m.

More than one in every three Oakland teenagers drop out of high school — a rate twice the state average, according to the most recent data from the California Department of Education from the class of 2009-10.

What’s more, Oakland’s black and Latino students quit school at significantly higher rates than the state average for students of their same racial backgrounds. Forty percent of Oakland’s Latino teenagers drop out, compared to 22 percent of Latinos statewide. And nearly half of the city’s English learners quit school, compared to roughly 30 percent statewide. (Click the previous link for Oakland data, which is also available by school and program, such as special education and language, on the drop-down menu. If you live in another California district, you can find the statistics here.)

As part of a national Corporation for Public Broadcasting campaign to find solutions to this crisis, KQED is holding a town hall for teachers. It starts at 5 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) evening in the Laney College Theater, and hosted by Glynn Washington of NPR’s Snap Judgment.

You can find more details about the event here. Below is a description: Continue Reading


Posted: Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

OUSD is hiring an unspecified number of teachers (a.k.a. “teacher leaders” or “Acceleration High School: Teachers On Special Assignment”) to work an 11-month year at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high school campuses. The jobs, which were posted on EdJoin.org late this afternoon, are open to candidates at other schools and even those outside of OUSD.

As most of you know, teachers already at the three high schools need to apply as well, if they wish to stay at their schools. (Unlike other candidates, they don’t need to submit letters of recommendation or resume — just the Ed Join form and a letter of introduction — and they will be guaranteed an interview, district staffers told teachers at Castlemont this week.)

The application window starts today and ends on March 30. Teachers will be hired on a rolling basis, said Brigitte Marshall, OUSD’s HR director.

The job description is mighty long. You can find the one for Castlemont here, and I’ve pasted it below. (I bolded the headers to make it easier to read.)

I’m curious: How many of these duties do you — and, from what you can tell — most of your colleagues do already? Which are less common? Which, in your mind, are the most (and/or least) important?

Do you plan to apply for one of these jobs? Why? I wonder what percentage of the schools’ existing faculties will choose to, and if this opportunity will draw many teachers from other schools.


Oakland Unified School District
Acceleration High School: TSA

Job Description Continue Reading


For some Oakland teachers, a job re-application

As we reported on Saturday night, teachers on Oakland’s Fremont and Castlemont campuses and at McClymonds High School have recently learned that if they want to stay at their schools they will have to reapply. And soon.

The Oakland school district administration says it will replace the current, 10-month teaching positions with an 11-month (204-day) job with a different job description entitled “Accelerated TSA,” for teacher-on-special-assignment.

Fremont and Castlemont are undergoing a second major transformation, as the small schools on each campus merge back into one. McClymonds already merged, in 2010, but OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said Mack was included in the plan because it, along with Fremont and Castlemont, is one of “the three highest-need schools in historically under-served neighborhoods.”

Flint said the change will allow the district to “hand pick”  teachers that are willing to fulfill the new role, which is designed to improve student achievement at those schools. The job description is likely to include such requirements as submitting weekly lesson plans and using data to inform instruction — things that many teachers already do, but that aren’t necessarily mandatory, he said.

Teachers in the new positions would be paid at the same rate they are now; with the additional time, he said, the average teacher would earn roughly $4,000 more per year.

Continue Reading


“We are Oakland International,” a graphic novel

"We Are Oakland" book cover

Students at Oakland International High School have come to California from all around the world — most of them, in the last few years. Through a project led by art teacher Thi Bui, the teenagers have told their stories in graphic novel form.

I wrote about this project in the fall of 2010; now the collection of stories is coming out in a book.

The book launch is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, 125 14th St. The event is in the teen zone on the second floor.

Books are $25 — and, if you go, you’ll get a signed copy. You can also find it on Amazon.

Oakland International book release


Education fixes, straight from the students

image from alyssalaurel’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Earlier this week, as many of you have been discussing, Michelle Rhee presented her ideas for improving public education in the United States.

Tonight, two high school debaters had their chance.

In a fancy office building in downtown Oakland, Bay Area Urban Debate League members Kwodwo Moore, 19, and William Hampton, 16, offered their fixes to a small group of elected officials (or representatives), lawyers, and others involved in educational programs.

Moore, a senior at Emery Secondary School, thinks some classrooms should have two fully trained teachers. He says students would take more of an interest in their schoolwork if their schools created more cross-curricular courses. Hampton, who attends Aspire’s California College Prep in Berkeley, proposed removing the A to G high school graduation requirement (in place for his school and this year’s OUSD freshmen) to allow kids to pursue their own career paths, beginning in 11th grade. He also made the case for student evaluations of teachers.

Both teenagers made persuasive arguments, and — as instructed — the other guests asked tough questions, sometimes poking holes in their proposals.

After it was over, I asked Hampton what he thought about education reform. (This year, the experienced debaters have spent most of their time researching space policy.) I half-expected him to say how impossibly complicated it all was, but he didn’t.

“I feel people make it more complex than it actually is,” he said.

Do you agree? (It’s funny; usually I hear people say the opposite of education proposals — that they’re too simplistic.) I plan to write a story about this group next week.