Claremont’s band — here to stay?

photo by Aric Crabb/Staff

The award-winning music program at Oakland’s Claremont Middle School is a big source of pride; the band started up a few years ago with only eight students, and its ranks quickly swelled to over 100. I wrote about this success story last year.

That’s why some families were dismayed to see “music exploration” printed on their child’s class schedule last week, instead of band or orchestra. Some said they were told at orientation that band would be part of the after-school program from now on, instead of a class, but no one seemed to know what “music exploration” was. The Oakland teachers union got involved.

“Clearly, this is not going to stand,” said Betty Olson-Jones, the union president.

The 400-student middle school is undergoing some big changes this year: a new principal, Kenya Crockett, a new bell schedule, and  “houses,” or groupings of students within each grade-level.

So why mess with something that’s working?

The school’s leadership has apparently decided not to, according to a memo given out at Monday night’s PTA meeting Continue Reading


Should Calif. change its teacher evaluation law?

A California law prohibits the state from linking student data to individual teachers “for the purposes of pay, promotion, sanction, or personnel evaluation.” State Superintendent Jack O’Connell says the law doesn’t keep local districts from doing so, but federal education officials still don’t like it.

Why would Californians care? Because the state is competing for over $4 billion in federal stimulus money — also known as Race to the Top funding — and the law might make the Golden State ineligible.

Dana Hull, my colleague at the Mercury News, writes about the issue in much greater detail. You can find her piece here.

What do you make of this whole situation?


A message from the kids at PS22

I know, these kids are from New York, not Oakland, but someone told me about this video and I couldn’t help but post it. The fifth-graders in this public school choir sing everything from Coldplay to Lady Gaga — and Journey — with so much gusto. Wait till you hear the soloist.


Oakland Youth Orchestra performs Sunday

photo courtesy of Oakland Youth Orchestra

And it’s free of charge.

The Oakland Youth Orchestra‘s spring concert will feature Hungarian Dances I, V & VI by Johannes Brahms; Harp Concerto by Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf Adaline Stephens, Harp; Symphony No., 29 by Wolfgang Amadeus Moza; Side by side with Oakland School for the Arts Chamber Orchestra; and Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Sunday, May 17, 2009, 3:00 pm
First Congregational Church of Oakland
2501 Harrison Street, Oakland 94612


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


A safety net, unraveling before our eyes

photo of a final communications class at Lifelong Medical Care’s adult day care center by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

Today marks the end of hundreds of adult education programs for seniors and the disabled — in Oakland, alone. Across the state, classes that once provided a source of needed stimulation for the elderly are falling by the wayside. Continue Reading


Strike that: Adult ed is no longer on board agenda

After a request from AFT local president Ana Turetsky, the state administrator agreed to strike the adult education presentation from tomorrow night’s agenda and hold the discussion about the state budget impact sometime after spring break.

The postponement will allow for more public participation, but I’d be surprised if it delays or otherwise alters the deep cuts to adult ed programs. Many of the classes are scheduled to end on Friday, and the agenda item looks like an informational report on the impact of permanent cuts (and fiscal policy changes) on adult education, statewide.