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Archive for the 'students' Category

An unwanted fresh start, midyear

Staff Photojournalist

Today, I wrote about the practice of moving teachers from school to school, weeks into the school year, to balance the budget. It’s happening to five Oakland teachers this year, including Breianna Davis, shown above with her kindergarten students at Carl B. Munck Elementary School. Next week, she’ll be at another school, and her 22 students will be divided among the remaining kindergarten and first-grade teachers at Munck.

Three other elementary schools will undergo a similar adjustment: Bella Vista (which is losing two teachers), Laurel and Community United. All but one are kindergarten teachers.

According to Brigitte Marshall, the district’s new director of HR, the original list of consolidations was at least three times as long. Troy Flint, the district spokesman, said 400 fewer students enrolled than expected (and 28 fewer at Munck), creating a $1.4 million deficit. As I’ve written before, many families don’t show up on the first day — or even the first week — of school, which makes it hard to make staffing changes early in the school year. They rely on a count taken on Day 20, which is in late September.

But I imagine such explanations make little sense to the teachers and families making this kind of adjustment on the eighth week of school.

Stay tuned for a guest blog post from a teacher at Bella Vista.

Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011
Under: budget, students, teachers | 3 Comments »

Should Oakland track student suspensions by teacher?

A new report calls for school districts to publish student disciplinary statistics by school, race and gender, to help teachers learn how to keep order in their classrooms without kicking kids out, and to create a disciplinary system that doesn’t result in out-of-school suspensions of large numbers of students — particularly black students.

The policy brief, by the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center and UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, reminded me to check in with what’s happening in Oakland Unified on the discipline-and-race front.

A plan proposed by the Oakland school district’s African American Male Achievement Task Force would do some of the things suggested in the report — and even go beyond.

One of the task force’s recommendations, listed on page 14, is to identify teachers who refer a certain number of black students for suspension based on “defiance” — the vast majority of cases, according to spokesman Troy Flint — as well as principals at schools high expulsion rates for black males: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, safety and discipline, students, teachers | 26 Comments »

An Oakland classroom, on national TV

Think College Now teacher Kristen Casaretto
photo of Kristen Casaretto by Hasain Rasheed Photography

Did anyone watch Education Nation on NBC last week? It highlighted the work of three teachers, including Teach for America alum Kristen Casaretto, who teaches fourth grade at Think College Now in East Oakland.

Talk about courage — the segment includes a live video feed from Casaretto’s classroom during a math lesson. (The above link takes you right to the Oakland part; to see the whole “Classrooms in Action” segment, go here.)

At one point, `Today’ show host Ann Curry says to Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America: “In this particular school, the numbers — I’ve gotta be honest with you — are not great … but these numbers are going up dramatically every single year.”

Kopp responds by saying she saw “a whole different set of data,” particularly for math — numbers that put the school on par with schools in Palo Alto, a district often used to illustrate the top half of the achievement gap. She went on to praise the teaching staff at Think College Now and its turnaround.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Under: achievement gap, Algebra/Math, elementary schools, students, teachers | 42 Comments »

Oakland school wins National Blue Ribbon award

PERALTA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Here’s some more good news: Peralta Elementary School in Rockridge is one of 21 public and private schools in California — and 305 in the United States — to be awarded the 2011 National Blue Ribbon from the United States Department of Education.

The school scored a 937 out of 1,000 points on the state’s Academic Performance Index this year. Its African-American students, who made up about 16 percent of the enrollment in 2010-11 (down from 66 percent percent in 2005-06), had an average API of 857. Latino students, about 12 percent of the students, had an API of 939, higher than the school average.

Peralta is the fourth public school in Oakland (and the second non-charter school) to be honored for academic excellence. Previous winners: Lincoln Elementary in Chinatown (2010), American Indian Public Charter School in the Laurel District (2007), Oakland Charter Academy in Fruitvale (2008).

Other Bay Area schools to earn this distinction in 2011 were James Leitch Elementary School in Fremont; Ulloa Elementary in San Francisco and Ruskin Elementary in San Jose.

You can find a list of winners here.

Posted on Thursday, September 15th, 2011
Under: elementary schools, students, teachers | 21 Comments »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Under: college, high schools, students | 19 Comments »

California’s 2011 test scores are out

It’s every k-12 education reporter’s favorite time of year: test score day! (I meant to post this earlier, but after sorting my 27th spreadsheet, my mind was rendered temporarily useless.)

Do you want to see how your school did last school year? You can find a spreadsheet with multiple tabs (East Bay, Oakland, and Oakland sorted by API score and growth) here. If you want to see it in print, we’re running a big chart listing the API scores and No Child Left Behind status of all the schools in our area in tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) paper. Here is a link to the California Department of Education’s website.

For my story on No Child Left Behind, I talked to two Oakland principals — Marco Franco, of Sobrante Park, and Charles Wilson, of Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy — about their experiences with Program Improvement, a status that is shared by more schools each year as the student proficiency standards get tougher. (By 2014, all students are supposed to reach proficiency in reading and math, as the federal law is currently written.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Under: students, test scores | 41 Comments »

First day back

I love the first day of school, but the parents at Oakland’s Grass Valley Elementary put my enthusiasm to shame this morning. You can see the PTA moms (and Dad’s Club dads) in action in a video I took of my visit, which will soon be posted to this Tribune story.

Some Oakland schoolchildren didn’t have such a stellar first day, through no fault of their their own or anyone at their schools. A manhunt in East Oakland led to an afternoon emergency lockdown at Castlemont and East Oakland PRIDE. For students at those schools, it meant noisy helicopters hovering overhead, hours stuck in the cafeteria, or hours without lunch. Hopefully they will have a much better day tomorrow.

How was your first day back? Tell us about it — even if it’s the second day of school by the time you read this.

Posted on Monday, August 29th, 2011
Under: families, students, Summer, teachers | 4 Comments »

School closures on the horizon in Oakland

Oakland school district officials have said for years that the district runs too many schools — 101 for 38,000 students.

Superintendent Tony Smith has been judicious with his use of the `C’ word, though he’s blamed some of the district’s financial challenges — and its relatively low teacher pay — on the number of schools in the district.

Now, his staff have come up with a complex ranking system (link below) for choosing which schools to close or merge. The school board votes on the criteria tomorrow, during its 5 p.m. meeting. The closure list would be announced at the end of October, according to GO Public schools. It’s unclear from the presentation how many there would be, but I’ll let you know when I find out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Under: budget, families, school closures, students | 61 Comments »

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?

Posted on Thursday, August 11th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, dropouts, high schools, students | 30 Comments »

How they spent their summers

Anthony AlexandreBlythe Rinehart-Pimentel, 11Laura Hernandez

Laura Hernandez, 13; Blythe Rinehart-Pimentel, 11, and Anthony Alexandre, 13 were three of the kids that photographer Laura Oda and I followed this summer for our stories about the importance of learning during the break. You can read the latest piece and watch the videos here.

Posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
Under: achievement gap, students, Summer | 30 Comments »