Tilden: another ed experiment cut short?

photo of Tilden classroom by Sean Donnelly/Oakland Tribune

Tilden School is a fascinating study in special education — and, more broadly, in promising and potentially short-lived Oakland school district experiments. You can find today’s Tribune story here.

Tonight, the board is expected to vote to close the 125-student elementary school (a plan that might entail relocating its students to one of six different schools) at the end of the 2009-10 year because of facilities and enrollment concerns. It was originally slated to close this June, but parents quickly organized and pushed for another year to craft a stronger plan with more community input, which two board subcommittees approved.

One of the school’s biggest challenges Continue Reading


School reform: the “off-with-their-heads” approach

An OUSD parent called my attention to the following Education Week blog post by Diane Ravitch, an NYU researcher and former United States Assistant Secretary of Education, about extreme measures to improve public schools in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York City. Ravitch talks about new school creation and the wholesale replacement of teachers and principals.

Sound familiar? She writes:

From what I know, and from what I have seen, schools are not shoe stores or hamburger joints, which can be opened and closed at the owner’s whim. They should be durable institutions with deep roots in the local community. If they are low-performing, every effort should be made to help them. And, further, I have seen many terrible new schools created in the past few years, some of them regular public schools, some of them charter schools. Continue Reading


Deja Vu: The same school closes twice

file photo of Paul Robeson’s 2008 commencement

Fremont Federation’s Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts will likely have only a few more commencement ceremonies like the one pictured above. On page 33 of tomorrow night’s agenda, you’ll find a staff recommendation to close the East Oakland high school — the very same school that the state administrator already approved for a gradual phase-out, last month.

What happened? A possible Brown Act violation. The district might not have properly publicized Robeson’s phase-out in December, so it’s on the agenda once again. (State Administrator Vince Matthews compared it to Obama’s oath of office re-do, saying it was done “out of an abundance of caution.”) Continue Reading


Real world experience in high school

photo of Sofia Garcia (left) and Oliveto chef Paul Canales (right) by Jane Tyska/Tribune staff

For some Oakland high school students, a classroom doesn’t always mean rows of desks and a chalkboard. Last week we ran a story about Sofia Garcia, a senior at the internship-based MetWest High School, who has spent two days a week for the last two-plus years in the kitchen of Oliveto Restaurant in Rockridge.

How have other schools incorporated `real world’ experience into the curriculum, and how has it worked?


Time is short for BEST, Robeson and Peralta Creek

Tonight, State Administrator Vincent Matthews decided to phase out two small high schools: the Business Entrepreneurial School of Technology (BEST), one of two schools on the West Oakland McClymonds campus, by 2011, and the Paul Robeson School of Visual & Performing Arts, one of four schools on East Oakland’s Fremont campus, by 2012.

Peralta Creek Middle School, which is in the second year of a phase-out (even if people at the school didn’t learn that, definitively, until more recently), closes at the end of the school year.

An emotional, historical discussion unfolded as retiring board member Greg Hodge, teachers and others traced the roots of these struggling schools to their much-celebrated origins not long ago. Continue Reading


The school “phase-out” tack

You don’t need to have served on a board of education to know this: Closing schools is a political nightmare. Imagine hundreds of impassioned teenagers marching eight miles from their school in East Oakland’s King Estates neighborhood to protest its fate. I don’t need to describe the indignation, the tears, the news trucks and cameras everywhere.

But phasing schools out, one grade at a time? Allowing them to die a slow death, without forcing out any existing students? Families and kids who don’t yet attend a school are much less likely to rally around it.

I have a feeling that’s the wave of the future here in Oakland.

Tonight, the state administrator is set to approve plans to phase out BEST High School, one of two small schools remaining at West Oakland’s McClymonds campus, by 2011, and to close the nearly phased-out only Peralta Creek Middle School (Calvin Simmons) after its last group of eighth-graders is promoted to high school.

Fremont Federation’s Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts has suddenly Continue Reading


Phasing out, moving schools

The Oakland school board put a halt to talk about large-scale closures this month, but they never said school closures were out of the question. Some of these tough decisions will surface in less than two months, while others are slated to determined a year from now.

In December, the Oakland school board will decide whether to continue to phase out BEST High School at McClymonds (which is now grades 10-12) and Peralta Creek Middle School at Calvin Simmons (now just eighth grade).

They’ll also discuss the possible relocation of Life Academy and Tilden Elementary School.

In the fall of 2009, the board is slated to decide what to do with the following list of “focus schools” — those with academic and/or enrollment concerns: Continue Reading


A happy, anti-climatic ending for small schools

There was plenty of drama leading up to the school board meeting tonight. The television trucks outside the Oakland Tech auditorium, the cameras, the crowd. Fittingly, the board members, the superintendent and the state administrator were on stage, under brutally bright lights, while the audience sat in relative darkness.

“This is not a show, it’s a meeting,” board member Greg Hodge said in an unsuccessful attempt to even out the lighting.

But it was a show, as these kinds of meetings often are. In this case — to everyone’s relief (except, maybe, for some of the journalists) — it was an anti-climatic one. Continue Reading


Board prez: All this closure talk is “premature”

More than 1,000 people are expected to pack tonight’s school board meeting at Oakland Technical High School to speak out against the closure or merger of the district’s (new and old) small schools, according to Oakland Community Organizations organizers.

For all of you who are feverishly preparing your speeches, this bit of information might be helpful: The board appears likely to back off of the “right-sizing” idea entirely, at least for now.

David Kakishiba, the school board president (pictured here), told me today that there is no plan to close schools this year, and that he didn’t know how that notion took hold. He said he will likely make a statement tonight, at the beginning of the meeting, to assure people that OUSD will seek other ways to fix its budget other than shutting down schools.

“It’s absolutely backward,” Kakishiba said. Continue Reading