Oakland’s latest list of “focus schools”

NOTE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint says that while closure or merger is a possibility for each school, the district is not planning to recommend this outcome for all of the focus schools. Other possibilities include increasing enrollment, support, etc. So, the same as in previous years.

OUSD has released an updated list of schools that have not measured up academically, that have too few students to be financially viable, or both. They’re called “Focus Schools,” but as anyone who’s ever been on the list knows, it really spells the possibility of a merger or closure. Especially now, when the district is looking to cut $27 million from next year’s budget.

The list doesn’t look much different from last year’s, even though the criteria have changed slightly: Continue Reading


Oakland high school teacher heads to Capitol Hill

Yumi Matsui, a Life Academy and Bay Area Writing Project teacher, heads to a Congressional briefing Monday to talk about digital storytelling — specifically, about the immigration-focused project she and another teacher led at their East Oakland school, and how the medium helped students become better writers.

Interested? Check out this 7-minute video about the Life Academy project, produced by the Pearson Foundation:


Oakland’s API: Big gains, bigger achievement gaps

California’s 2008-09 API scores — that three-digit number commonly used to rate schools and districts — came out this morning. On a scale of 200 (low) to 1,000 (high), the Oakland school district scored a 695, about 19 points higher than last year.

photo by Hasain Rasheed, courtesy of the Oakland Small Schools Foundation

The good news: I counted 29 Oakland schools whose Academic Performance Index (API) scores went up by 50 points or more in the last year. Futures Elementary School, a small, redesigned school on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, pictured above, improved by a cool 118 to reach 701. East Oakland Pride on the old Webster campus made a 112-point gain. And Think College Now — a majority-Latino school in Fruitvale with an English learner population of more than 60 percent — saw is API shoot up by 80 points, to 848.

On the other hand: The “achievement gap” between Oakland schoolchildren of various racial/ethnic groups narrowed ever-so-slightly this year, but it’s still broad enough to comfortably fit a double-wide.  Continue Reading


New principals and a $1.8m math contract

The Oakland school board is back in business. It holds a special meeting at 5 p.m. this evening with the district’s new superintendent to talk strategic priorities, and it met on Saturday as well.

A couple of things on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the first regular session since June:

  • A new personnel report, in which I learned: Matthew Duffy, the Elmhurst Community Prep principal I profiled in May, is now a Network Executive Officer; Duffy’s assistant principal, Laura Robell, has become acting principal; Elyata Davis is acting principal of REACH; and Claude Jenkins is acting principal of Youth Empowerment School. (The Skyline High School appointment is conspicuously absent, unless I missed it somehow.)
  • A hefty $1.78 million, one-year contract for Swun Math, a program first piloted at a handful of elementary schools. This year, if the contract is approved, Swun Math will be in place at 35 elementary and 18 middle schools throughout the district. 

Most of the schools using the Swun Math method have seen their test scores rise significantly, according to the charts in this district presentation.

Continue Reading



Here I am, living in Oakland, placed at Explore Middle School and wading through a frankly inhumane volume of employment paperwork. A lot has changed since my last post.

Right after I took the unbelievable drive from Cleveland to Oakland, interviews began to pop up. I was getting calls regularly from Oakland City Teacher Corps with new developments. But the arrangements puttered and stalled. The only one that made it through the flaky summer scheduling was at Explore. I was told that the principal was excellent, and it was indeed an energetic and enthusastic interview. Though humble, that school has all the potential to be an example in the small-school movement: a clear-eyed, active leader; a tight staff; and a willingness to try new ideas. Continue Reading


Don’t call them nerds! Geometry prowess at an Oakland middle school

There’s been a big push lately to have all students take Algebra I in eighth grade. A group of kids at Urban Promise Academy, a middle school serving kids from the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods, have taken it a step further. Their teacher, Abby Paske, shares her story with us. -Katy

photo courtesy of Abby Paske, Urban Promise Academy

After months of hard work and dedication, the eighth-grade geometry class at Urban Promise Academy Middle school is first in the district. 100 percent of students passed the district’s spring assessment, and 83 percent of them achieved a mark of exceeding. The next closest school had a mere 50 percent of students achieving the mark of exceeding.

Urban Promise Academy, or UPA, is an urban school in California where over 80 percent of the students at the school receive free or reduced lunch. It is a small school by design, with the mission of preparing students for college and beyond.

After ranking second in the district mid-term assessments, UPA students were excited, but hesitant about their ultimate success. Continue Reading


A closer look at Oakland’s small schools reform

photo by Laura A. Oda/Oakland Tribune

It took two years of reporting (and a healthy amount of procrastination) to polish off a retrospective piece on Oakland’s small schools movement. Well, here you have it.

There are three related stories in Wednesday’s Tribune: An analysis of the ins and outs, ups and downs of the effort; a short profile on Elmhurst Community Prep and its principal, a small schools convert; and another short(ish) piece about the schools and the people who haven’t fared so well in this whole experiment. Continue Reading


Yes, their hats are in the ring

At a closed session special meeting tomorrow night, the Oakland school board receives a short list of semifinalists from Ray and Associates, Inc., the firm hired to help with the district’s superintendent search. The rumor mill is churning, of course, and I’m working to confirm some of the names I’ve been hearing again and again…

For now, I present you with two would-be leaders of the Oakland Unified School District: Michael Moore Sr. and Hae-Sin Thomas. They won’t know until tomorrow night whether they are among the candidates that the school board and its advisory committee will interview. Continue Reading


Report follows the grass-roots organizers who brought small schools to Oakland

Tribune file photo of Acorn Woodland Elementary School by Alex Molloy

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University has spent six years studying a major initiative of the Oakland Community Organizations: to radically change public education in the city’s flatlands neighborhoods by creating small schools. Tonight at Castlemont’s East Oakland School of the Arts (EOSA), researchers discussed the findings. Continue Reading


School renamed Barack Obama Academy

Oakland has become one of the first school districts in the country to name a school after President Barack Obama.

Students from the school formerly known as the Alternative Learning Community applauded and hugged each other tonight after the board voted unanimously to allow the alternative middle school to rename itself “Barack Obama Academy.”

The students were candid Continue Reading