“This is not a lecture:” Oakland Youth Forum on Crime and Safety

The original flyer.

The City of Oakland Youth Commission, the City’s Neighborhood Services Department, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, Strategic Policy Partnerships, and  Councilmember Lynette McElhaney will facilitate the Youth Forum on Crime and Safety on Thursday, May 9, 2013 from 4:30-7:30pm. The forum will take place at Laney College at 900 Fallon Street in the Forum Lecture Hall (off 10th Street). This forum is one of the six town hall meetings with the consultants of the Strategic Policy Partnerships which took place throughout the City this spring.

These town halls are intended to seek input from residents about the community’s public safety priorities as the Strategic Policy Partnership consultants develop a comprehensive crime reduction and suppression strategic plan.

Questions for these small groups will include:

  • · What do you want to see the police do differently?
  • · What can young people do to make Oakland safer?
  • · If you were a police officer, what would you do to earn people’s respect and trust?

Expecting more of students with disabilities

Stacey Smith is an Oakland school district parent and volunteer who has served on the District GATE Advisory Committee, the school board’s Special Committee on School Based Management, and the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. What she writes about does not reflect the view of any group.

“State should expect more of students with disabilities, say federal officials”

That’s the headline from a front-page San Francisco Chronicle story about how California schools have lowered academic expectations for special education students statewide by over-using the simplified California Modified Assessment (CMA) rather than using the regular California Standard Tests (CST).

The CMAs and CSTs are two standardized tests California students in grades 3-11 take annually. The U.S. Department of Education has expressed concern that California uses the CMAs more than twice as often as recommended by federal guidelines. According to the feds, the rate of special education students taking the CMAs should be 2 percent of the total student population and only 20 percent of the special education population.

How is OUSD doing? In 2011-12, Oakland reported that 7 percent of the district’s population enrolled in grades 3-11 took the CMAs for English Language Arts (ELA), more than three times the expected rate.

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Orphal: What my students are plotting while I’m across the world

This piece by Skyline High School teacher Dave Orphal was originally published onTransformED, the group blog for the Center for Teaching Quality, and is being posted here with his permission. You can read more from Dave and other teacher leaders at TransformED. 

Greetings from Finland. I’m a Skyline High School teacher who’s here to learn more about what is touted by many as one of the best school systems in the world.

Meanwhile, back in Oakland CA, my Introduction to Education class is following my trip, researching the Finnish education system, and preparing policy briefs for school reform.

A little bit about the course:

Skyline High School is organized as numerous small learning communities. I work in the Education Academy. (There are also academies dedicated to digital media, green technology, performing and visual arts, sports and exercise science, and others.)

In the Education Academy, sophomores start in my Introduction to Education class. Over the next two years, they will take Education Psychology and Peer Education, both taught by our academy director. The academy is populated by students who are interested in becoming teachers, nurses, counselors, or social workers.

About my students’ Finland project:

I am launching a three-year, cross-curricular project with my students. This year, my students will research the Finnish system and make reform recommendations to our school’s governing body. In the eleventh grade, they will take up the endeavor again, doing primary research at our school to see if students, staff, and administration agree with the reform proposals they have assembled. During senior year, they will pick up the project once more, moving into an action phase in which they will attempt to influence policymakers and raise funds to turn their proposals into real reforms. Continue Reading


API and NCLB, all over again

Today was Test Score Day, which meant staring at numbers for hours — and, in my case, unwittingly informing a school principal that her award-winning school had fallen into Program Improvement.  (Not the worst news I’ve ever delivered, but still.)

Want to see the latest API scores? My colleague Danny Willis created an interactive database, and you can find my story on NCLB here. You might be surprised by some of the school districts that ended up in Program Improvement this time around.

Nearly a dozen more OUSD schools landed in Program Improvement, including Think College Now, Manzanita SEED, Montera Middle School and others that have won awards for closing the achievement gap.

No OUSD schools made it out this year, but we reported on a school in Hayward that did. Burbank Elementary School received a three-year, multi-million-dollar School Improvement Grant, beginning in 2010-11, and has been able to offer its students more ever since.

Below is the list of Oakland schools newly identified for Program Improvement, and you’ll find a link to the PI status of all schools in Alameda County here.



Gov. Brown signs, vetoes, student discipline bills

Public Counsel, a non-profit law firm that has promoted an overhaul of school discipline policy, released this summary of bills signed and vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Note: The descriptions of each bill are theirs, not mine.

Bills Brown has signed:

  • AB 1729 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) changes existing law to strengthen the alternatives to suspension or expulsion and clarify that school removals should only happen after other means of correction fail to bring about proper conduct.
  • AB 1909 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) ensures that school districts provide notification to foster parents or other county child welfare designees and the court-appointed attorney for the foster youth when a foster youth is pending expulsion.
  • AB 2537 by Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) provides additional discretion to school administrators to use alternative means of correction in lieu of expulsion and further clarifies that possessing an imitation firearm, over-the-counter medicine or student’s prescription medicines are not “zero tolerance” offenses that automatically require expulsion. It also eliminates an existing $500 fine imposed on a principal who fail to notify law enforcement of certain crimes allegedly committed by students.
  • AB 2616 by Assemblymember Wilmer Carter (D-Rialto) will focus truancy reduction efforts on solutions with schools, students and parents that are shown to work, so that law enforcement and courts are used only as a last resort.
  • SB 1088 by Senator Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) helps ensure that children who have had contact with the juvenile justice system are not barred from re-enrollment and are immediately reenrolled in school.

He vetoed: Continue Reading


Want to work with Oakland kids? Volunteer fair this Saturday

Attention prospective volunteers! If you’ve ever wondered how you might lend your skills and time to some Oakland schoolkids, the answer might be awaiting you — in a middle school multipurpose room.

The annual volunteer fair is from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Westlake Middle School (2629 Harrison), and it’s organized — at least in part — by the neighborhood group Volunteering for Oakland.

On Saturday, 20 organizations are expected to send representatives to the event. Organizers say there’s free parking in a lot off 27th Street.

Katie McLane, a retired OUSD principal, wrote this in a letter to the editor:

This is a special opportunity for those of us with a little extra time on our hands to find out about the amazing range of volunteer opportunities to work with the youth of Oakland.

Have you gone to this fair — and gone on to volunteer? Tell us about it.

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National immigration policy, local high school students

photo by Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group

A story in the Oakland Tribune by my colleague Matt O’Brien examined how the federal “deferred action for childhood arrivals” immigration policy might provide added inspiration to some students to graduate from high school and go to college.

The program, announced in June, offers temporary deportation relief for those brought to the country illegally when they were children as long as they were under 31 on June 15 and have met certain educational (and other) requirements.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 20 percent of young immigrants who met the other criteria won’t be able to benefit because they don’t have a high school diploma or GED and they’re not in school. I wonder if that figure is even higher in Oakland, where the four-year high school graduation rate is only 59 percent.

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Weinberg: Extra money makes a huge difference in student outcomes

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and Education Report contributor, makes a case for the Proposition 30 tax initiative on the November ballot.

Steven WeinbergDoes providing schools with more money lead to improvements in student achievement?

The experience of Oakland middle schools over the last three years shows that it does.

Several years ago four Oakland middle schools with test scores in the lowest 20 percent of state schools received multiyear grants of $900 per student to reduce class sizes and fund other improvements. The grants were not given to all schools in the lowest 20 percent because the state wanted to be able to compare differences in improvement between those schools that received the extra money and those that did not.

After three years the differences in Oakland’s middle schools are dramatic. Continue Reading


Improper fractions and scale, on a warm summer day

Staff Photojournalist photo by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

On a hot (by Oakland standards) summer afternoon this week in Oakland’s Sobrante Park neighborhood, a group of almost 50 soon-to-be middle schoolers were in the thick of problem solving at their local school.

I mean, check out that whiteboard!

The topic was measurement and scale, a concept that’s fundamental to our lives — and to the work of engineers, architects and planners — but sometimes difficult for kids to wrap their minds around.

To demonstrate the pitfalls of creating small-scale models with inexact measurements, Ryan Patrick O’Neill, an Oakland math teacher, pulled up an ancient map of the world and compared it to a modern one, made with the benefit of satellite technology.

“What’s wrong with this map from 200 CE?” he asked the class of 10- and 11-year-olds, later noting the different sizes and shapes of India, Australia, and the African continent.

The history and purpose of units of measurement could easily be a dry lesson. But at the new summer engineering academy at Madison Middle School (also in place at Frick and West Oakland middle schools), students learned the value of a ruler by moving around the room and measuring various lines with a juice box, a pencil, an umbrella and other objects that proved a bit unwieldy.

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