Health centers and “full-service community schools”

Skyline High School's new health center
photos by Roy Manzanares, courtesy of Oakland Unified

Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith’s vision of full-service community schools is taking shape on some campuses, thanks to a school-based health center initiative that has picked up steam (and millions of dollars in funding) since 2008.

Oakland Unified’s 12th health center opened this week, at the 1,900-student Skyline High School. The Native American Health Center (NAHC) will operate services at the clinic. The renovated portable building includes two medical exam rooms, a laboratory and three confidential consultation rooms.

new Skyline High School health center

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Not your typical high school science lab

Lara Trale, who teaches the sophomore English classes at Oakland High School’s Environmental Science Academy, wrote this piece about an ongoing class project — with help from some of her students.

CH2M Hill 11-15-11 027
photo courtesy of Katie Noonan, co-director of Oakland High School’s Environmental Science Academy

Stop by Lake Merritt most Tuesdays, and you’ll see dozens of high school students pulling up samples of the lake’s algae-rich water, squinting into refractometers, and peering down as a lowered Secchi disk disappears into the murk.

This is routine for the 70 sophomores of Oakland High School’s Environmental Science Academy, who have been recording water quality data since September 20 as part of their ongoing monitoring of Lake Merritt. They analyze the lake’s turbidity, salinity, density, dissolved oxygen levels, and acidity. They record water and air temperatures. Microscope analysis of a plankton tow reveals some of the smallest marine organisms living in Lake Merritt.

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Whooping cough shots: Time’s running out!

Staff Photojournalist

By Friday, all Oakland Unified students in grades 7 to 12 must show proof that their Tdap, or whooping cough, vaccinations are up to date — or be turned away from school, as required by a new state law.

Since the spring, nurses have given shots to thousands of kids who’ve provided parental consent forms, said Joanna Locke, director of health and wellness for the Oakland school district. This morning, the district set up a clinic on East Oakland’s Fremont high school campus (pictured above).

Still, as of Sept. 16, the district’s latest count, 14 percent of the students in those grades — about 2,000 — either still needed the shot or hadn’t provided the paperwork proving that they had gotten it.

If you know someone who needs help with this, they should call their doctor or the Immunization Assistance Project at (510) 267-3230. They can also visit http://www.acphd.org for a list of immunization clinics.


California Dream Act awaits governor’s signature

College-bound California high school students who are in the United States illegally will soon be eligible for taxpayer-funded financial aid if the governor signs AB 131, a bill known as the California Dream Act. (Read the full text of the most recent version of the bill here.)

The New York Times reported that this bill, if passed, would give illegal immigrants more education benefits than any other state. A Sacramento Bee story said the bill is estimated to cost California $23 million to $40 million a year. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, California college students receive about $3.34 billion in state-supported financial aid each year.

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How to teach about Sept. 11

My colleagues and I are working on a story about how Bay Area teachers plan to cover the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. So tell us: What aspects of the event and its ongoing aftermath will — or should — social studies teachers address in their classrooms?

Given the religious and ethnic diversity of California’s classrooms, I wonder how teachers will approach such sensitive topics as the role of religion and international terrorism, if at all, and generally what they will consider as they put together their lesson plans.

How do you make an event — one that’s still so fresh in the minds of many adults — relevant to children who were toddlers or small children when the World Trade Centers collapsed? How much emphasis and time, if any, to you plan to devote to this topic?

The Education Writers Association posted this link to a blog post with curriculum for teachers. Are there other resources you’d recommend?

I’m looking for teachers, parents and students to interview and, possibly, for lessons to observe. If you’re interested — Don’t be shy! — or know someone who might be, send me an email with your contact information so we can talk at greater length about how you and your colleagues plan to approach this important moment in our world’s history.

I encourage you to post your thoughts and ideas here. Want to write a piece for The Education Report about the subject? Please submit it to kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Just remember to include your basic information (name, school, grade, subject, etc.) and, if possible, a photo of yourself. I look forward to hearing from you.


New dropout formula, same problem

California’s new dropout and graduate estimates are out for the Class of 2010. They are supposed to be more accurate than ever before, as this is the fourth year the state education department has used unique student IDs to track students’ progress through the system.

With four years of data, it didn’t have to make all kinds of crazy projections and extrapolations to guess how many kids were quitting school. It’s basic division — a calculation simple enough for a fifth-grader (or a journalist with a firm grasp on order of operations) to understand!

Oakland’s graduation and dropout rates were among the lowest in the state. There might well be districts out there with worse rates, but I didn’t come across any. Based on these estimates, Latino students in Oakland fare worse than their peers elsewhere in the state, with a four-year graduation rate of 47 percent, compared to 68 percent statewide.

How confident are you that OUSD’s strategic plan will turn this around?


Debate camp in Oakland

Diego Garcia (rising junior at Fremont High School’s Media Academy), Rashid Campbell (Skyline High School Class of 2010, soon-to-be sophomore at University of Oklahoma) and Annessa Lopez (rising junior at Skyline) tell us all about last week’s Bay Area Urban Debate League summer camp, a free institute that was held last week at Oakland’s Westlake Middle School. – Katy

Diego Garcia
DIEGO GARCIA: Two years ago I went to my first BAUDL summer institute, dragged along by my sister Jazmin to the foreign world of debate. I remember being nervous: I had never engaged in an activity like that before, and was worried about having to speak in front of a crowd. But in the end I loved it, and started spending a lot of time on it, enough that my partner and I came out of last year’s season as League Champions.

When the 2011 BAUDL institute began my biggest concern was the camp tournament – I had a reputation to defend. The last day of the institute there is a tournament were debaters would test their knowledge based on their own personal experiences and what they learned during the week. Being the competitive debater that I am it’s always exciting being at a tournament just to really challenge opponents and make it a learning experience for both teams.

This year we will be debating about space – like my lab leader at the summer institute told us, space is literally infinite, so there was a lot to talk about. There was a case on space colonization – should we send a group out into the stars just in case we blow ourselves up here on planet earth? – a case on global weather monitoring systems, and a few others. Up for debate were whether developing space could lead to nuclear proliferation, and whether the government or private companies should take the lead.

The best part of debate camp was the whole learning experience not only with my coaches, but with my peers as well. To be able to share knowledge and different perspective in debate camp is just fun because we can compare ideas and see how they tend to play out. Every year it is great just to see new debaters rising up so to speak, because I know that the league will become better as a unit as these new recruits join our community. I like to see debaters with years of experience share the knowledge they have gathered with the young and less experienced minds. I know that the new recruits eventually will do the same for the next generation.

This year I am really looking forward to all the tournaments and debate rounds my partner and I will engage in since it is a great deal of fun – clashing with arguments, advocating for policy options, and researching our own cases. This year, my biggest goal is to win league championships all over again, but for that I see a lot of new, tough competition that are quickly learning, that they too have the same goal – but hey, that’s debate.

Rashid CampbellRASHID CAMPBELL: Being from Oakland has taught me a lot about how to deal with and handle certain situations. As stressful as the competition of debate gets some times, I know I have been through more, and every hard experience I have had actually helps me win in debate. I am one of those debaters that brings poetry and stories about what has happened to me and my people into the arguments I use in competition, and I am motivated to help the youth use the same strategies to find the power in their own voices.

To be quick with it, I was excited to be working with Bay Area Urban Debate League youth as a staff member for this summer institute. This year we had some great students. Some of them were really not enthusiastic about debate at first, but over time they grew to love it just as much as the staff. My lab in particular was the “underdog” group of the varsity labs. We took the students who had less experience in debate and helped them develop tools and tactics so they could compete on even ground with the top teams in the league.

Over the week, we helped them understand that winning a debate round takes more than just an abundance of information from politicians and academics.   Continue Reading


ETS finds cheating took place on AP tests at Skyline

Education Testing Service investigators believe some Skyline High School students cheated on their advanced placement tests, Principal Troy Johnston told families in a letter he sent out this week that details some of the findings (see below).

The Skyline Oracle published a story in June about the ETS’s investigation into possible procedural breaches. In its report, Assistant Principal Marisol Arkin, the school’s testing coordinator, and other school staff downplayed the potential consequences of the inquiry.

“The worst-case scenario is that one or two tests may have to be retaken,” said Ms. Arkin.

Or 30.

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district, said ETS canceled 30 scores on various tests it deemed suspicious; the exams in question were in various subjects administered during a two-week period this spring. Flint said the rest of the results — which were withheld for weeks, pending the investigation — have been or will be released soon.

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Shop class: Are old school skills back on the cutting edge?

Shop classes (and especially the term “shop class”) have fallen out of fashion in the last couple of decades. But Mark Martin, an engineer who started iDesign-M, thinks that basic manufacturing skills are still relevant in today’s marketplace. He says they are important for careers in design and engineering, as well as (obviously) the well-paying advanced manufacturing jobs that our president is promoting.

I know San Leandro High still offers a thriving industrial arts program. What about other schools?

Here is a video of the free, two-week iDesign-M program that 15 East Bay high school students attended this month. This is the second year of the program, which is heavily funded with private grants. It’s held at Laney College in Oakland. A story about the program should appear in the paper next week, possibly Monday.


Lots of new principals in Oakland schools

Twenty of Oakland’s 98 schools will have new principals next year, according to a list that OUSD’s spokesman sent to me this afternoon (with a caveat that there might be some errors; it’s July, and the fact-checkers are on vacation). This is the longest list I’ve posted in blogging history (See 200720082009 or 2010, though those weren’t necessarily complete).

Here are the schools that will have new leaders this fall, according to the list from OUSD, which is posted in full below:

Elementary: East Oakland PRIDE (TBD), Emerson, Futures (TBD), Grass Valley (TBD) Hillcrest, Kaiser, Parker (TBD), REACH, Sequoia, Bella Vista (TBD), Laurel

Middle: Alliance, Roots International, West Oakland Middle, Bret Harte (TBD)

High: Coliseum College Prep (grades 6-12), East Oakland School of the Arts, Freshman Prep Academy (this is new, part of the restructuring at Castlemont), Mandela (Fremont), Media Academy (Fremont), and Metwest. (All three high schools on the Fremont campus will be under one principal, Dan Hurst.)

Below is the list from Oakland Unified, with the principal changes highlighted in yellow.

Principals in OUSD (changes highlighted in yellow)