Oakland school wins National Blue Ribbon

Lincoln Elementary School. Tribune file photo by Jane TyskaLincoln Elementary School is the first public, non-charter school in Oakland to receive a National Blue Ribbon Award from the United States Department of Education. It was one of just 21 public or private schools in California to be honored this year for academic excellence, and among 304 nationwide.

More than 75 percent of Lincoln’s students come from low-income families, and about 90 percent enter kindergarten with limited knowledge of English, Principal John Melvin said.

But get this: 84 percent tested proficient or higher this year on the state’s reading test, and 96 percent showed proficiency in math. Every one of its fourth-grade students met the state’s targets in math, and 93 percent tested at the “advanced,” or the highest, level.

The 600-student school Continue Reading


Test scores in motion

I expected tonight’s OUSD test score wrap-up to be another dry Power Point of weeks-old news. I did not anticipate the “motion chart.”

Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either, but you can see for yourself.

If you want to see six or seven years worth of Oakland Unified test score trends by school or by grade-level, and subject, and if you want to see how Oakland kids have measured up to their peers statewide on the tests, click one of the above links, check the boxes of interest and hit play.

Yes, play.

Continue Reading


My high blood pressure and test scores: The connection is not what you’d think

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and Education Report blogger, thinks public education could use a new prescription.

Steven WeinbergNine years ago my doctor informed me that my blood pressure was too high and put me at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke and could shorten my life. He put me on a medication which quickly reduced by blood pressure fairly dramatically.

Several years later he changed my prescription to a different medicine. When my blood pressure climbed back about half-way to what it had been originally, I became concerned and asked him why we had switched to a less effective medication. He said that although the first drug was very successful in lowering blood pressure, long-term studies had shown it had no effect at all in reducing fatal heart attacks and strokes, and reducing those was the real goal in prescribing the medication in the first place.

In other words, although the first medication was doing a great job changing the measurements we were tracking—blood pressure—it was having no real effect on the important goal, extending my life. The second drug, although less impressive in changing the blood pressure numbers, had a solid record in improving the things that really mattered.

Recent articles about test scores have caused me to wonder if something similar isn’t happening today in education. Continue Reading


The latest high school exit exam results


Talk about a high-stakes test. Unless you pass both sections of the California High School Exit Exam — English and math — you don’t get a high school diploma.

Students take the exam for the first time as 10th-graders (the test includes some Algebra I concepts and English standards through grade 10) and they may retake it several times in their junior and senior years. Last year, 100 percent of the students in Piedmont Unified passed both subjects as 10th-graders, and the same was true this year at the American Indian Public High School.

I put together a spreadsheet with four pages that breaks down the first-time pass rates by district and race/ethnicity and highlights changes (by district in Alameda and Contra Costa counties) from last year to this year.

Tab 4 — titled “OUSD” —  lists Oakland’s high schools, including charters,  in alphabetical order and then, below, sorts them from highest to lowest 10th-grade pass rates in each subject. The charter schools are definitely clustered at the top.

Continue Reading


How did Oakland’s charter schools do?

Oakland’s charter school test scores vary just as widely as those of the rest of  the schools in the district. Want to see how the state-funded, privately run schools did on the 2010 state tests, and whether their scores improved from last year?

Look no further. I’ve just finished compiling the numbers. (If you spot an error, please let me know!)

Click here for the spreadsheet, which you should be able to sort to your heart’s content, and here for the link to the state CST data.


Test scores inch up in Oakland, Alameda County

California’s 2010 California Standards Test scores are in.

Wonder how Oakland stacks up to other districts in Alameda County? Here’s a spreadsheet of the districts, sorted from highest to lowest percentages of English and math proficiency. On the second worksheet, you can also see how the scores in each district changed from 2009 to 2010.

OUSD trends: Oakland’s public schoolkids scored better than they did the year before. More of them met the state’s proficiency goals in reading (41 percent, up 4 points) and math (44 percent, up 5 points), and fewer tested poorly (31 percent scored “below basic” or “far below basic” in reading, and 36 percent did so in math, an improvement of several points).

The district’s elementary schools made solid — and in some cases, dramatic — improvement on the California Standards Tests, based on a school-by-school analysis prepared by the district’s data whizzes. The middle schools’ numbers moved in the right direction, too, especially in math (with the exception of West Oakland Middle School, whose math scores rose spectacularly last year and fell pretty far this year, though not all the way back down).

But the scores remained flat at most of the school district’s high schools, particularly those in East and West Oakland. In math, all but four at least 18 of Oakland’s high schools have proficiency percentages in the single digits. (As one reader rightly noted, my original count didn’t include schools with grades 6-12, which were included in the middle school section.)

Here are some schools whose student proficiency scores went up at least 15 percentage points in reading and/or math. Let me know if I’m missing anyone!

Burckhalter – 15 points in math (71%)
Martin Luther King, Jr. – 15 points in reading (38%)
Manzanita Community School – 17 points in math (61%)
Markham – 22 points in reading (55%), 15 in math (60%)
RISE – 18 points in reading (36%)
Manzanita SEED – 29 points in math (73%)
Maxwell Park – 15 points in math (46%)
Piedmont Avenue – 16 points in math (67%)

Alliance Academy – 15 points in math (32%)
Community Day – 23 points in reading (27%)


L.A. Times ranks teachers based on student scores

Los Angeles Unified didn’t use its wealth of student test score data to try to evaluate the effectiveness of its teachers, but the L.A. Times did.

The newspaper collected seven years worth of California Standards Test data for more than 600,000 students in grades 3 through 5. Using a method called “value added,” which is designed to estimate each student’s academic progress from one year to the next, the reporters rated 6,000 teachers in the system, from “least effective” to “most effective,” based on whether their students made more (or less) progress, on average, than others in their grade throughout the district.

Later this month, the paper plans to publish the database — with the teachers’ names and how they stack up, by this measure, against their colleagues. You can read more about the project here, and the first story in the series here.

Continue Reading


Weinberg: Myths about standardized testing

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and regular Education Report blogger, tells us what standardized tests can’t measure, in his view, and why. -Katy

Steven WeinbergIn my last 10 years working for Oakland Unified School District, I spent considerable time investigating the California Standards Tests and their results to help my school make sense of the data the tests generated. During that time I became aware of a number of myths have been built up about these tests, many propagated by the state or the test makers themselves.

Knowing the facts about these tests is important for drawing reasonable conclusions from their results and for making sound educational decisions for the future.

I know that most readers of this blog are already fairly sophisticated about the nature of standardized testing, but the results of these tests are so often misused, it is worth taking some time to review these misconceptions.

Myth 1: The California Standards Tests (CSTs) measure what teachers are supposed to teach.

Continue Reading


Hearing tonight on Oakland’s “persistently lowest-achieving schools”

Should Oakland Unified apply for a federal grant — money with strings attached — for its schools that made the state’s lowest-performing list? At 6 p.m. tonight, the school board is holding the first of two hearings on the subject. It’ll be held at United For Success Academy on the Calvin Simmons campus, 2101 35th Ave.

Explore Middle School, United for Success, ROOTS International, Alliance Academy and Elmhurst Community Prep are the five Oakland schools eligible for the money (an amount still undetermined). To get it, they have to do one of four things: shut down and send their students to other schools; close and reopen as a charter school; fire the principal and half the teaching staff; or fire the principal, extend the school day and make other changes. Principals who have been in place for less than two years are allowed to stay.

Continue Reading


California’s schools, ranked again

Test prep. File photo by Cindi Christi, Bay Area News Group

In case you’re not already having dreams (or nightmares) about No. 2 pencils and bubbles, I’m here to bring you data on last year’s state tests. Hey, don’t blame the timing on me! The state settled on the release date.

The California Department of Education sorted schools of each type, statewide, and gave them a rank from 1 (low) to 10 (high). Those whose API scores were in the lowest 10 percent (of all elementary schools, for example, or of all high schools) are ranked 1; those in the highest 10 percent are ranked 10. About 77 percent of Oakland’s public schools, including charters, fell in the bottom half, receiving ranks of 1-5.

Continue Reading