West Oakland’s empty classroom seats

Here’s a sobering statistic: Of the 2,890-plus Oakland Unified students who live in West Oakland, 1,270 attend schools in other parts of the city, according to school district data.

That’s 44 percent, and it doesn’t count children who go to public charter schools or private schools — or to Berkeley Unified, for that matter.

What to do? A new group of city, school and county officials and community leaders has formed to revitalize public schools in West Oakland during a time of ongoing budget cuts ($27 million out of next year’s OUSD budget).

The group is called the West Oakland Brain Trust, and it was convened this fall by school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, who represents District 3.

Some of OUSD’s top dogs came to its Tuesday morning meeting. Superintendent Tony Smith Continue Reading


Oakland’s API: Big gains, bigger achievement gaps

California’s 2008-09 API scores — that three-digit number commonly used to rate schools and districts — came out this morning. On a scale of 200 (low) to 1,000 (high), the Oakland school district scored a 695, about 19 points higher than last year.

photo by Hasain Rasheed, courtesy of the Oakland Small Schools Foundation

The good news: I counted 29 Oakland schools whose Academic Performance Index (API) scores went up by 50 points or more in the last year. Futures Elementary School, a small, redesigned school on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, pictured above, improved by a cool 118 to reach 701. East Oakland Pride on the old Webster campus made a 112-point gain. And Think College Now — a majority-Latino school in Fruitvale with an English learner population of more than 60 percent — saw is API shoot up by 80 points, to 848.

On the other hand: The “achievement gap” between Oakland schoolchildren of various racial/ethnic groups narrowed ever-so-slightly this year, but it’s still broad enough to comfortably fit a double-wide.  Continue Reading


So, how did Oakland’s charter schools do?

Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda

You wanted to know how the city’s independently run, publicly funded schools performed on the 2009 state tests. Here’s your answer, courtesy of the OUSD Charter Schools Office.

Of the 27 charters that were around in 2008, 15 made significant gains in both English and math.

The charters with the biggest up-swings were Continue Reading


Schwarzenegger says he stands with Obama, calls for swift changes to California ed laws

File photo

During a press conference this morning that veered suddenly into a Q & A about prison reform (and never really went back), the governor announced he was lining up with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama — and that the state planned “to go all out” to make California eligible for competitive federal stimulus funding.

Schwarzenegger said he was calling a special legislative session to do away with laws that might make California ineligible. He has asked state Legislators to present him with a package by early October that would lift the state’s charter school cap and allow teacher evaluations to be linked to student test scores.

“The Obama administration has pointed to California and said we have no way to distinguish good teachers from bad teachers, and I happen to agree with that,” Schwarzenegger said. “They call it a firewall and I say, `Let’s tear down that wall.”‘ Continue Reading


Test score gains: more knowledge or better prep?

Between 2008 and 2009, 80 percent of Oakland’s elementary schools improved their scores in math AND in English language arts, according to a school district analysis. (A list of the most-improved schools is posted below.)

Oakland’s not alone in its upward trend. On the page 4 and 7 of this news release, you’ll see increases in English and math scores, statewide, especially in the early grades.

John Boivin, who administers the STAR Program Office at the California Department of Education, said there were no major changes this year in the test, itself, or in the scoring of it. He said his team hadn’t yet drawn any conclusions about why the scores went up.

Boivin did say, though, that the law only requires the state to change half of the questions on each test from one year to the next. In other words, experienced teachers have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be on it. Continue Reading


The test results are in. How did your school do?

First things first: You can find out how your state, county, district, school and/or grade did on California’s 2009 spring standardized tests by clicking here.

If you want schoolwide scores (rather than grade by grade) for Oakland, you’re in luck. Once again, the Oakland school district’s number crunchers have come through by compiling a very readable and informative spreadsheet that looks at results, by school, for English language arts and math.

The right half of the spreadsheet shows the percentage of students who showed proficiency in math or English, as well as the percentage-point change from last year. (Green is good. Red is not.) The left half shows the percentage of kids who scored poorly on the tests.  Continue Reading


First, teachers. Now, principals.

It’s not only teacher evaluations that education reformers are hoping to infuse with data.

Emily Alpert of Voice of San Diego.org writes about a new proposal in San Diego that would use attendance, test scores and dropout rates in the evaluation of school principals. You can find her story here.

Speaking of test scores: I learned a new term today on Ed Week’s Teacher Beat blog: DRIP (Data Rich, Information Poor) Syndrome.


State testing: Which expert has it right?

File photo by Cindi Christi/Bay Area News Group

Academics and other experts debate the merits, pitfalls and politics of standardized testing on a New York Times blog. Below are some excerpts; you can access the responses in full through the above link. In your opinion, who has it right? Who has it wrong?

“Tests covering what students were expected to learn (guided by an agreed-upon curriculum) serve a useful purpose — to provide evidence of student effort, of student learning, of what teachers taught, and of what teachers may have failed to teach.” — Sandra Stotsky

“Test driven, or force-fed, learning can not enrich and promote the traits necessary for life success. Indeed, it is dangerous to focus on raising test scores without reducing school drop out, crime and dependency rates, or improving the quality of the workforce and community life.” — James Comer

Continue Reading