Teachers demonstrate today at five corners

Just when you thought AIMS and Tony Smith were the stories in town, OUSD educators will rally at five street corners in Oakland at 4 p.m. to drum up support for their demand of a 3.5 percent pay raise.

– 35th and MacArthur
– Grand Lake Splashpad Park  (where the Saturday farmers market is held)
– 51st and Broadway
– 98th and International
– Seventh and Market streets

Here is their explanation:

Escalating their fight for a fair contract, Oakland Unified educators will take to the streets at 4 p.m. this afternoon (Wednesday, April 17) on five street corners for their “Hour of Power” event to mobilize the community about their struggle. Oakland teachers are leaving the district due to low pay. The district, despite its $25 million in excess reserve funds, is refusing the Oakland Education Association’s proposal of a 3.5 percent raise for this school year. The protests are to educate the public about the district’s lack of priorities: For this school year, the district budgeted for 234 fewer certificated employees (teachers, counselors, etc.) and 36 fewer classified employees, but 37 more administrators.



Teacher evaluations — and surveys of students and colleagues

Dave Orphal, a teacher at Skyline High School in Oakland, is writing a series of blog posts for The Education Report about revamping teacher evaluations — including a pilot program that two middle schools are using this year. Orphal serves as a veteran teacher leader for the Bay Area New Millennium Initiative and works with the California Teachers Association’s Institute for Teaching. You can read more of Dave’s thoughts on teaching and educational reform at TransformED.

David OrphalIn my last post, I offered an overview of a proposed teacher evaluation system that two Oakland schools are piloting. The proposed system would replace the six performance criteria outlined in the California Standards for the Teaching Profession in favor of five new, but remarkably similar, criteria. I also examined one major departure from the current system of teacher evaluation, specifically the use of student performance data.

In this post, we will look at another significant difference from the current and piloted systems: feedback from a teacher’s students and colleagues.

The proposed teacher evaluation system will add a component called 360-Degree Feedback. In essence, this is corporate jargon for using multiple perspectives and sources of information to inform an evaluation. Jargon aside, I applaud the effort to draw in more voices and viewpoints that just one administrator’s in the evaluation of a teacher.

The pilot evaluation system already doubles the number of people observing a teacher, simply by asking an instructional coach to do several observations in concert with the observations that a principal would do. The 360-degree feedback adds to this a set of surveys completed by the teacher’s students and another set completed by her colleagues.

I can already imagine some of the concerns that some teachers will have. Surveys can be influenced heavily by emotions. A student who is angry with me because I would not flex on a deadline might rate me as a poor teacher, while that same student may rate me an excellent teacher because I flexed on the deadline. Emotional responses like these would have only a vague reflection on my actual effectiveness as a teacher. At the same time, my colleagues may be reluctant to give me honest feedback in order to maintain harmony in the copy center and teacher cafeteria.

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A new teacher evaluation system being tested at two OUSD schools

Dave Orphal, a teacher at Skyline High School in Oakland, will write a series of blog posts for The Education Report about teacher evaluations — including a pilot program that two middle schools are using this year. He serves as a veteran teacher leader for the Bay Area New Millennium Initiative and works with the California Teachers Association’s Institute for Teaching. You can read more of Dave’s thoughts on teaching and educational reform at TransformED.

David OrphalIn the last session of the OEA/OUSD teacher conference last Saturday, I sat in a session about a new teacher-evaluation system piloted by two Oakland schools. Like my own school, these two are under interdict from the state and federal education authorities to dramatically remodel themselves because their test scores remain unsatisfactory.

The schools applied for, and received, a federal grant to help them with their remodeling. One of the conditions for the money is to revamp their teacher evaluation system so that student achievement data is included. Additionally, the new system will have to include provisions for teacher improvement, reward, and removal.

The panel talking about the evaluation system included teachers, principals, and district personnel in charge of school transformation.

The proposed teacher evaluation system used by these two schools includes six components: Continue Reading


Last chance to attend Saturday’s OUSD Teacher Conference

Tribune file photo of 2011 convention by Laura A. Oda

Last spring, at its first-ever teacher convention, delegates told the district administration — loud and clear — that often the most valuable support and training came from colleagues, rather than outside experts, and that teachers needed a chance to come together and share ideas.

So this year OUSD’s Talent Development Office, with support from the teachers union, organized an all-day conference for some 200 teacher-delegates, asking each school to send two elected representatives. It takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Oakland Technical High School. (The schedule of courses is posted below — or, if it’s not there, should be soon.)

But not every school has selected delegates, and there’s still room for about 40 more teachers. Yesterday, the district opened enrollment to others who want to take part, said Margaret Dunlap, a former Glenview and Montclair teacher who now works in the district’s Talent Development Office.

Dunlap said teachers must register by the 8 a.m. Friday deadline to receive the $150 stipend. Interested? Fill out the registration form at the bottom of this post and email it to margaret.dunlap@ousd.k12.ca.us.  Continue Reading


Even in retirement, teachers bring warmth to their former Oakland school

Carrie Johnston, a teacher at Oakland’s Bella Vista Elementary School, wrote this reflection about a group of retired teachers. 

Retired Bella Vista teachers
Photo courtesy of Carrie Johnston. Left to right: Karen Chin, Louise Broome, and Carolyn Matson

Bella Vista School teachers gathered on this last morning before spring break for a treat — breakfast prepared by three retired teachers. The delicious repast included home fries, grits, donuts, and cheesy scrambled eggs. Tired staff, looking forward to the coming break almost as much as their students, took time to gather, enjoy the food, and spend some time together before the last day.

Carolyn Matson, Louise Broome, and Karen Chin have always been generous when it comes to sharing their cooking gifts with the staff at Bella Vista; ask any member of the staff from the past four decades and she will remember a potluck (or several) featuring one of Mrs. Broome’s tasty cooked treats, and for the past several years the social committee has been helmed by the dedicated, enthusiastic Mrs. Matson and Ms. Chin.

I began my teaching career at Bella Vista. After leaving the school and the district for several years I counted myself lucky to return here, because the staff have a wonderful way of caring for each other. Many of the teachers and support staff have worked together for decades, and the trust and comfort they take in each other is heartwarming. Although no teams of researchers have been in to confirm my beliefs, I am pretty sure the consistent staff and the fellowship among the adults at Bella Vista have contributed to the steady improvement in student achievement. It is a place where adults have felt at home, and these comfortable adults provide a feeling of home to the students at Bella Vista as well.

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Will OUSD back off its high school reforms?

9 P.M. UPDATE: So far, Gallo has not made the below motion on the TSAs. His focus has been on supporting Lazear Elementary School’s charter school conversion.

UPDATE: OUSD board member Noel Gallo has confirmed that he might introduce a motion tonight to direct Superintendent Tony Smith to back off the teacher-on-special-assignment plan and negotiate a solution with the teachers union.

“Right now, there’s too much divisiveness going on,” he said.

Do you agree? What do you think about the timing of all of this — right before the hiring decisions are supposed to be announced? If he does introduce the motion, he’d need three of his colleagues to vote for it.

P.S. We’re hearing Occupy Oakland will be occupying the meeting too.


The Oakland Education Association is holding a rally today to protest the district’s decision to have teachers at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds apply for a new, 11-month teaching position if they want to remain on those campuses. (In case I haven’t reminded you enough, the Tribune is holding a forum tomorrow on this very issue.)

Do you agree with the below assessment that the district’s plan is “the latest corporate-inspired flavor of the month,” rather than a real solution?

Here’s the news release: Continue Reading


A teacher’s perspective on OUSD job showcase

Peter Von Ehrenkrook teaches at Santa Fe Elementary, one of the five Oakland elementary schools slated for closure in June. Below, he gives us his account of event the Oakland school district held on Friday evening for displaced teachers like himself.

The Advisory Matching School Showcase was indeed an opportunity for the displaced elementary school teachers to meet with school representatives. It was also much more, evidently, since there were tables there for charter schools, middle schools, and even high schools.

Some tables had nothing but a sign-in sheet for people who might be interested in the school – no ambassadors or information.

Most tables had one brave and often tired-looking teacher who gamely tried to answer questions posed by displaced teachers (as well as many other adults who were not from the closed schools).

A few schools made the effort to display pictures and stats, leading one student who walked by to ask if it was a science fair. Sankofa Academy displayed data on a portable screen.

On a personal note, I found little information that was not available online, and most of the $250 school ambassadors had no clue what the procedure was from here. The list of openings provided at the door did not match the verbal information offered by ambassadors either, at most sites. They were either hedging when they provided the information to HR, or perhaps dissuading teachers on the spot who did not fit their desired profile.

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Tomorrow: a showcase for displaced teachers

After school tomorrow, the Oakland school district is holding an event for the dozens of Oakland teachers who find themselves in the so-called “talent pool” because of school closures, a leave of absence or other reasons. The informational interview fair, which is voluntary, will give displaced teachers a chance to meet someone from each school that has posted vacancies for the upcoming school year.

Teachers will then be given two days to visit schools that catch their interest. Then, starting from the most senior teacher, they choose their placements from the list of openings. (Despite the administration’s efforts to give principals more of a say in that decision, mutual matching fell by the wayside.)

The Advisory School Matching Showcase is something new for Oakland Unified. Before, teachers just picked from a list of vacancies, often knowing little about the school besides its reputation and location. (Some might simply do that again this year, as they are not obligated to do any of this.)

I’d like to hear, from teachers and school representative alike, the expectations you have of this event — and, afterward, how it went. I wonder, for example, if anyone became interested in working at a school that they might not otherwise have considered. Do you think it will help inform your decision? Make you feel more comfortable at School B?

If you’d like to write up your reflections from the event and share it with your fellow blog readers — and you know you do! — just email it to me, along with your name and school, at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Here’s the district’s description of the showcase, which is happening in the Think College Now/International Community School auditorium: Continue Reading


Tribune forum on March 29: Join us!

On Thursday, March 29, the Oakland Tribune is holding a public forum to delve into the issue that has elicited more than 150 comments on this blog: the Oakland school district’s decision to create a new teaching position on three of its high school campuses, and to require even current teachers to apply for the job if they want to stay.

I’ll be moderating the panel discussion. We’ll have a Q & A section at the end, so bring your insights and questions. You’re also welcome to post them here, if you can’t make it. I hope to see you there!

WHEN: 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. Thursday, March 29
WHERE: 81st Avenue branch of the Oakland Public Library, 1021 81st Ave. (at Rudsdale)
CONFIRMED PANELISTS: Superintendent Tony Smith; Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones; Castlemont (EOSA) teacher Timothy Bremner; Fremont (Media Academy) teacher Howard Ruffner; Fremont (Media Academy) student Diego Garcia


Pink slips, 2012: a different story

Last year by this date, 657 Oakland teachers had slips of paper telling them they were at risk of losing their jobs because of budget cuts — a traumatic development that hit some schools particularly hard. (When all was said and done, the district eliminated about 95 of the 538 full-time positions originally slated for potential cuts; adult education took the brunt of the layoffs.)

This year, none of Oakland’s permanent teachers received layoff warnings, Superintendent Tony Smith reported, saying the district’s reserves were deep enough to absorb mid-year budget cuts, should the state tax measures for education fail.

March 15 is the date by which districts must notify teachers of the possibility of layoff or reassignment, according to state law. My colleague Sharon Noguchi said other districts issued fewer notices this year as well. You can find her story and district-by-district information here.

Two of Oakland’s temporary teachers were laid off, and 16 teachers without tenure were dismissed (not necessarily for budget reasons), a number that’s significantly lower than in recent years. Two administrators received notices, as well, the administration reported.