The struggle to leave family problems at home

Guadalupe Rodriguez is an eighth-grade student at Westlake Middle School. She wrote the following piece about challenges at home that sometimes distract students from their school work. -Katy

Hi everyone, this is my first time blogging so I hope you all enjoy my writing.

My first blog I chose to write is about family problems and how they affect teens in school. Teachers talk about how bad their students are, but why don’t they look more at the causes? Teens have problems just like adults and it’s harder for us to handle. Some kids have to do so much at home they can’t do their homework. Others have so much on their minds during school it’s impossible for them to think.

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High school debate catching fire in Oakland

photo of Natassija Jordan-Oliver, 15, left, and Jessica Winsey, 16, right, by Ray Chavez/OAKLAND TRIBUNE

This weekend I stopped by the All-City Finals of the new Bay Area Urban Debate League, held at East Oakland’s Fremont campus. I watched just one of the competitions and strained to follow the intricate and rapidly spoken arguments and rebuttals about environmental policy.

“It’s a fusion between adrenaline and creativity and competitiveness,” Street Academy senior Tevah El Ehmet, known as V, told me after the round I observed. Continue Reading


New dropout rates: Big progress or screwy data?

The California Department of Education just released its latest dropout numbers — the second year of data for a new (and supposedly improved) data system that tracks individual students with unique ID numbers wherever they go in California.

If you take the data at face value, the Oakland school district is well on its way to solving one of its most serious challenges: From one year to the next, its estimated high school dropout rate fell from 36 percent to 28 percent.

So I called Karl Scheff, who manages the Educational Demographics Office at the California Department of Education, and asked what we should make of this swing.

“It’s a pretty big jump,” he said, after a pause. Continue Reading


Private college loans: Let the borrower beware

Gretchen Morgenson, a business reporter for The New York Times, warns high school seniors applying for private college loans (which sometimes fill the gap between federal loans and college tuition and other costs) to read the fine print before settling on a lender.

Morgenson’s story, published today, mentions a Web site, Student Lending Analytics, that allows consumers to scrutinize various lenders — their fees (openly disclosed or not), the ins and outs of their interest rates and other policies that might catch a college grad off-guard, years later. She writes:

As with all borrowing, making the right decision on a student loan is paramount. But lenders make this harder than it should be.

The top three private lenders are Sallie Mae, which underwrote $6.3 billion in loans during 2008; Citibank, with $1.8 billion in loans last year; and Chase, which made $1.1 billion in loans during 2007.

But disclosures on various lending practices differ vastly. Continue Reading


Oakland teen journalists get noticed

The April issue of National Edition, a collection of high school journalism by the American Society of News Editors, features 26 pieces. Four of them — hard news, sports and a movie review — were written by Oakland high school students.

These young Oaklanders covered the shooting of four Oakland police officers, the suspension of Skyline High School principal Al Sye, the induction of Rickey Henderson, an Oakland Tech alum, into the baseball Hall of Fame, and a review of the movie “Watchmen.”

(Isabel Rodriguez-Vega, one of the student-bloggers for The Education Report, co-authored the story about Sye.)

You should check out the stories when you have a chance.

image from elisasizzle’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons


Good news about Oakland’s graduation rate?

Well, sort of. Remember the researchers who came out with that report four years ago calling Oakland and Los Angeles “dropout factories” because they graduated fewer than half of their students? That report basically said that California was masking its terrible dropout problem with lousy math, and suggested a new formula to calculate how many students made it from ninth grade to graduation in four years.

By this same formula, Oakland’s four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2005 was about 50.5 percent, about nine percentage points higher than it was for the Class of 1995 Continue Reading


Study: Exit exam hurts girls and minorities

Researchers with Stanford University’s Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice found that the graduation rates of girls and non-white students have plummeted as a result of California’s high school exit exam requirement.

Looking at four California school districts, researchers analyzed the graduation rates and other data for kids who tested poorly (in the bottom fourth of all students) on standardized reading and math tests that they took earlier, in the eighth and ninth grades.

The study compared what happened to those low-performing students in the Class of 2005 — before the new graduation requirement took effect — with similar students at the same schools in the classes of 2006 and 2007. 

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A film about gender, featuring Oakland kids

The documentary film Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up features eight former Metwest High School students and other Bay Area youth. It’s being shown at film festivals around the country, but its East Bay premiere is at 7 p.m. Thursday evening at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave.

photos courtesy of GroundSpark

The hour-long documentary, which is part of an educational campaign about such issues as gender bias and health, delves into deeply ingrained gender expectations, and the lengths to which some will go to avoid being labeled as gay (and why). Continue Reading


Study offers solution to Oakland’s crime rate: graduation

Extrapolating from research on the effect of high school graduation on incarceration, researchers from the California Dropout Research Project present us with a bold guesstimate: If Oakland cut its dropout rate in half, the city would have 805 fewer homicides and aggravated assaults each year.

The report also projects that the drop in dropout rate would give the city an extra $144 million in “lifetime economic benefits.” You can find the one-page city profile here, and info for 16 other cities including Berkeley and San Francisco here.

Oakland’s dropout rate, according to the latest estimates by the California Department of Education, is about 36 percent. What would it take to cut that in half?

image from kimberlyfaye’s site on flickr.com/creativecommons