Do boys learn differently than girls?

Jason Baeten thinks so. He taught for 10 years at the Julia Morgan School for Girls, and this week he opened an all-boys middle school in Berkeley, the East Bay School for Boys. Their first assignment was to build their own desks, which was fun (and at times, sort of funny) to watch:

We’ll have a story about this new school in Sunday’s paper. In the meantime, I’m curious about the idea of designing instruction around girls or boys, which is becoming more common in public schools. Gender-specific classrooms have been considered in Oakland Unified, though lately that’s been overshadowed by lots of other changes, school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge told me this week.

Should the district create gender-specific schools or, at some places, classrooms within a school? What advantages and disadvantages do you see with that approach?

Some have proposed schools with an even more specific group in mind: African-American boys. Chris Chatmon, of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, wants to open charter schools in Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco modeled after the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx, NY.

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Market research on how Oakland families pick schools

A group of students from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business want to know why some families chose an OUSD education for their children (and exactly how they arrived at that conclusion) and why others opted for charter, parochial or independent schools.

Their online survey is open until midnight Sunday for all Oakland residents with children who are 22 or younger. You can take it in English or Spanish.

The survey asks questions about perceptions of safety, cleanliness, enrichment programs and school demographics at each of the schools the family considered. It will be interesting to see those findings, as well as the resulting recommendations to the Oakland school district about its “messaging” strategy and public image.

Michelle Florendo, one of the student-researchers, pointed out a consequence of school choice that we’ve discussed on this blog before: “A lot of public school principals are finding themselves in a position where they need to market their schools.”

This leads me to two sets of questions: Continue Reading


Will Oakland lose another Catholic school?

St. Bernard School
file photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune

Imagine being called to a parent meeting days before winter break and hearing that your child’s elementary school is running a $38,000-per-month deficit and will be closed for the spring semester. That, with a successful, parent-energized enrollment drive, it will re-open in the fall  — but no guarantees.

This is what’s happening at St. Bernard’s, a K-8 Catholic school on 62nd Avenue near International Boulevard whose enrollment has dropped to a mere 75 students (an average of about 8 students per grade). Continue Reading


Going to private school: same city, different world

Marcus Garrette, 15, writes about the social and academic challenges he faced when he went from an Oakland public high school to a private school in the 10th grade, and how his outlook shifted during the year. -Katy

When I began school last fall, I thought that it was going to be an amazing year where my friends and I would spend time relaxing while working hard, seeing how we had already completed our first year at Skyline High School and we were now sophomores. I was taking a few advanced classes and the regular required classes, plus I was in the school jazz band and was happy, overall, with my schedule.

As my first week of school progressed, it was feeling similar to last year. I spent a lot of time joking around but getting work done at the same time. I was very content with how things were going. This would change VERY soon and VERY fast.

Towards the end of that first week, a fellow schoolmate from my jazz band walked up to me and told me something that my sister had told her. The schoolmate told me, “Marcus! You’re going to Bentley?!” and I quickly responded with “What? No I’m not,” because at that point, I had no idea what Bentley was. The only other time I had heard that name was in reference to a luxury car. Continue Reading


Middle school philanthropy

courtesy photo

Here’s a feel-good story for the week: Three seventh-grade girls from Tehiyah Day School, a Jewish school in El Cerrito, spent the last two months collecting children’s books for their bat mitzvah projects. They knocked on neighbors’ doors, scoured garage sales and asked family friends, parents at their school’s bus stop, and people from their respective temples.  

The three girls — Talia Myers and Rose and Gabby Rokeach — collected 1,000 in all, which they delivered to children at Greenleaf (K-3) and Whittier (4-5) elementary schools in East Oakland. The books were for the kids to keep.

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Should public schools be responsible for private school references?

I’ve been told that enrollment at some public elementary schools dips in the upper grades, as families with means or scholarships transfer their children to private schools. Many others, I hear, make the switch before middle school.

I bring this up because it’s private school application season, and a Thornhill Elementary School mom tells me her school won’t write personal references for those applications. She thinks that such a position puts kids who attend public schools — but who might want to go to private school in the future — at a disadvantage.

Here’s what the Thornhill notice said, according to my source: Continue Reading