School reform deja vu

Today, when the state education department released its lists of “persistently lowest-performing schools,” I zeroed in on the five it identified from Oakland. They’re all middle schools: Alliance Academy, Elmhurst Community Prep, Explore Middle School, ROOTS International and United for Success Academy.

Alliance Academy and Elmhurst Community Prep both made the state list

My first thought was that most of those schools are less than four years old; how could they be persistently anything? (I did just turn a year older last month; maybe time is just advancing more quickly as I age.)

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McClymonds to lose a principal

Yetunde Reeves, left, during a 2007 peace walk. Tribune file photo

When the two small high schools on the McClymonds campus in West Oakland merge into one slightly bigger school this fall, a new leader will be in charge.

Yetunde Reeves, the principal of EXCEL High School since it opened in 2005 — and a teacher at Mack before that — has announced she has taken another job, at East Palo Alto Academy High, a charter school run by the Stanford Schools Corporation.

I wonder how many of her young teachers will follow her out the door. Here’s her letter:
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Can OUSD ditch its old rep and galvanize the support it needs?

The Bellevue Club on Lake Merritt has an old school, old Oakland sort of feel. But tonight, the future of the city’s schools — the city’s young residents, really — was discussed in its ornate rooms.

The event opened with a reception fundraiser for the Oakland Schools Foundation and remarks about the organization’s changes: its new name, its planned expansion, and its new director, Dan Quigley, former PG&E director of charitable giving.

Holly Babe Faust, the outgoing director of OSF, said the organization was optimistic about its relationship with the school district, which she predicted would become “broader, deeper, more interesting.”  She might be right; OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith made the keynote speech, after all.

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Oakland school to be showcased for success of black students

Think College Now, a public elementary school in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, is largely Latino — 68 percent in 2008-09. But tomorrow, the high performing, 120 265-student school will be showcased at a one-day institute in Sacramento that will feature “schools where African American students are succeeding.”

The thing is, I can’t tell you exactly how the school’s African-American students have scored on state tests. Its African-American student population was 34 in 2008-09, about 13 percent of the school enrollment. Which means the group was too small for the school to report its average API score.

If you were organizing a conference to share ideas about improving the education of African-American children, which schools would you invite?

Here is the release on the event: Continue Reading


A slice of life, from a middle school kitchen

cooking class at Melrose Leadership AcademyI love to hear (or read) the stories teachers tell about their kids, especially funny ones. Gehry Oatey, a middle school teacher at Oakland’s Melrose Leadership Academy and a blogger for Teacher, Revised, does not disappoint in his latest blog post, “Keepin’ it real in the kitchen with middleschoolers.”

Imagine you are 12 years old. Your body is starting to do new and fascinating things like grow facial hair, smell, and change its voice. Your emotions are bouncing off the walls regularly and perhaps there is no other time in your life when what you put into your body is of greater significance. Continue Reading


Oakland middle school to get a plug on the “Today” show tomorrow

Urban Promise AcademyUrban Promise Academy, a small middle school in East Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, will be one of three schools in the nation to be featured tomorrow morning on NBC’s “Today” show for a segment on innovative schools in low-income communities.

Because the show will be filming live from UPA for its East Coast broadcast, a group of teachers, parents and students will get to the school by 5 a.m. Mark Triplett, the school principal, said he’ll probably be there by 4.

Hey, if tonight’s board meeting goes late enough, maybe I can pull an all-nighter! (That was actually Triplett’s suggestion. I’m SURE he was only half-serious.)

It is scheduled to air after 8 a.m. Pacific Time, likely around 8:30, Triplett said. Continue Reading


More of OUSD’s small schools might close in 2010

District staff are recommending that Explore Middle School, a small school that opened in East Oakland in 2004, close at the end of the year.

Also on the 2010 closure list are two schools that were scheduled to close a year or two down the road, following a lengthy phase out: BEST High School (McClymonds campus in West Oakland) and Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts (Fremont campus in East Oakland).

Staff didn’t come out with a definitive recommendation for Martin Luther King Jr. and Lafayette elementary schools in West Oakland Continue Reading


A sped up phase-out at McClymonds

mcclymondsSoon, the McClymonds high school campus will have just one small high school, instead of two.

District staff is recommending that BEST High School close in June — a year earlier than planned, Chief Academic Officer Brad Stam told a crowd gathered at the McClymonds cafeteria tonight.

Stam said it would be unfair to BEST students and too costly for the school district to keep it open next year with just a few dozen students, and that this year’s juniors (the youngest class at BEST) will likely attend EXCEL, the other high school, next fall. This year, the school district is providing a subsidy of about $330,000, Stam said.

EXCEL’s enrollment has dwindled to less than 250, and just 65 juniors and seniors attend BEST, according to a recent districtwide data report. In 2004-05, the year before McClymonds split into two schools as part of the Gates-funded small schools reform, 761 kids went to the West Oakland high school, according to data from the California Department of Education. Continue Reading


Board meets tonight to discuss budget cuts

Even if you can’t make it to the 6 p.m. special meeting tonight at the Oakland school district office (1025 Second Ave.), you might want to take a look at the presentation district staff have prepared, which will likely be the basis for the board’s discussion.

Much of the information has already been out there; I believe this is an opportunity for board members to weigh in on budget cuts for next year.

In the appendix, you’ll find the average class sizes and total number of teachers at individual schools — as well as the money that each school might gain or lose if the district decided to tie the school funding formula to certain class sizes.

This is all leading up to two big meetings: Continue Reading


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