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Flood shuts down OUSD headquarters

Well, 2013 is not off to the best start for the OUSD administration. Here’s a slightly modified report I just filed:

A flood — apparently caused by a tap left on overnight — shut down the Oakland school district’s four-story administrative headquarters today. The roughly 150 employees who report there will have to work elsewhere for the rest of the week, and Wednesday’s school board meeting will be held at the newly rebuilt La Escuelita Elementary School across the street.

The problem appears to have started in the custodian’s closet, gushing three gallons of water a minute overnight until the swampy mess was discovered at 6 a.m. Tuesday, said OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

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New Haven Unified wins Race to the Top grant; Oakland wasn’t in the running

new haven unifiedNew Haven Unified in Union City is one of 16 winners of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant. (More information about the district competition here.)

My colleague Chris De Benedetti reported this week that the district will get $29.3 million during the next 4 1/2 years for summer programs, academic coaches, smaller classes for high school English learners and other strategies to improve its schools.

Like in some other large urban districts, including Los Angeles Unified, Oakland’s teachers union didn’t sign on to the proposal in progress, citing concerns about a lack of specifics and a sense that the agreement would replace negotiations at the bargaining table.

So OUSD didn’t apply. It had been told its chances of winning would be nil without its teachers on board, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

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This week in OUSD: Budget cuts for next year, closure savings, and possible new attendance boundaries

Wednesday’s Oakland school board meeting has a packed agenda.

Some of the highlights:

  • three charter renewal hearings (no decisions or recommendations yet), for Aspire’s Golden State College Prep, Oakland Charter Academy Middle School, and East Oakland Leadership Academy
  • discussion of the oversubscription problem at Crocker Highlands Elementary and possible changes to the recently moved attendance boundaries at Crocker and Cleveland elementaries
  • a fiscal update (including school closure savings estimates)
  • retirement tributes to school board members Noel Gallo and Alice Spearman. Though last I checked, Spearman fully intends to keep her seat, so this seems a bit premature.
  • SCHOOL CLOSURE SAVINGS
    On Slide 19 of the financial report, OUSD staff give an accounting of the costs and savings created by the closure of four elementary schools. It reports a net, ongoing savings of $3.2 million, after accounting for enrollment losses. Continue Reading

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Lazear Elementary, omitted from another Oakland school closure analysis

Staff Photojournalist
Families from Lazear Elementary protest their school’s potential closure in October 2011. Photo by Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group

For a short moment today, I thought the OUSD administration had given the public a full accounting of where students from recently closed elementary schools ended up this fall — more specifically, how many of the children at Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe remained in the district.

It’s been the subject of speculation for months, as student enrollment is closely tied to the amount of funding a school district receives from the state. If a school district loses too many students after it closes schools, it also stands to lose the savings underlying the whole plan.

The text at the top of Slide #6 on the enrollment presentation suggests that everything went according to plan — that only 19 percent of the affected left the district, about the national average. What’s more, it notes that the steep enrollment drop that crept up on the Oakland school district this fall had little to do with the restructuring plan.

The slide reads: “Percent of student loss from closed elementary schools is slightly lower than national average closure loss (20%). Total student loss represents small portion of total enrollment loss for OUSD in 2012-13.”

Then I saw the four bar graphs, one for each of the elementary schools on the closure list — except for one that’s nowhere to be found: Lazear Elementary.

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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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Tonight, Oakland parents to protest the teacher shuffle

AFTERNOON UPDATE: OUSD just sent me the information I requested about its teacher consolidations. There are 14 teachers from 13 schools being reassigned this year: from Bella Vista, Cleveland, Hoover, Kaiser, Claremont, Melrose Leadership Academy, Bret Harte, Roosevelt, Frick (2 teachers), Piedmont Avenue, Allendale, La Escuelita, and Rise.

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The week before last, Rachel Kargas, a parent at Oakland’s Cleveland Elementary School, wrote about the effects of consolidation: losing a teaching position and moving students into different (and often, grade-level combination) classrooms, mid-year, because fewer students enrolled than expected in certain grades. Parents from Cleveland Elementary spoke out at the last board meeting, urging the district to reconsider.

Tonight, the uber-organized parents and teachers at Kaiser Elementary School, who fended off the threat of closure last fall, plan to make their case. Parents say that because some families held onto their children’s seats until the last minute and enrolled them elsewhere, the school (which normally has a waiting list) had three vacancies — and is losing a teacher as a result.

I’ve requested information from OUSD on enrollment projections, the 20-day enrollment count (which, I’m told, should be coming soon — given that the 20th day of school was two weeks ago), and teacher consolidations — when a teacher is moved from one school to another to maximize class size loads.

The big question is how many fewer students than expected showed up to OUSD schools this fall, as that is likely driving some of these decisions.

The Kaiser parents (didn’t I tell you they were organized?) issued a news release this morning: Continue Reading

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Oakland Unified comes back to its teachers with a proposal

The initial proposals to be presented — or “sunshined” — to the Oakland Education Association at Thursday night’s board meeting don’t mention any numbers. (The meeting is on Thursday, rather than Wednesday, because of the Yom Kippur holiday.)

Instead, they call for a restructuring of the step-and-column system, a career ladder for teachers, revamped evaluation systems and an agreement to give “school governance teams greater voice in determining the composition of their school staff teams.”

Thoughts?

District’s Initial Proposals to the Oakland Education Association

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The hidden problem of chronic absence

Staff Photojournalistphoto by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune

We’ve just posted a story I wrote about chronic absenteeism — when a student misses 10 percent or more school days for any reason, excused or unexcused.

A small, but growing number of school districts in California have begun to crunch the numbers to see which of their students are habitually out of school, and how many. Traditionally, schools have looked only at how many of their students attend school each day, on average, or how many were truant or tardy.

When you count excused absences, the number of kindergartners who miss 18 or more days of school might surprise you (unless you’re a kindergarten teacher).

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Oakland schools that went way over budget

Some of you have been asking for this information, as I reported it a couple of years ago: A list of OUSD schools and how closely they’re sticking to their budgets.

The closing-of-books presentation on last night’s agenda contains that very list, starting on page 26. I’ll embed it below as well.

NOTE:  Some schools received an extra sum of money last fall through the district’s $3 million “balancing pool” — extra money for schools that end up in a fiscal bind, often because of bad enrollment projections or tiny enrollments. (You’ll find a spreadsheet I put together with the money requested and rewarded in 2011-12 here.)

That extra money was rolled into those schools’ working budgets and did not count against them in the over/under column.  But, even with the extra help, you’ll see that some of them still overspent.

Elementary schools, combined, spent $917,276 more than they had; middle schools, by $456,130; and high schools by $784,047. That’s more than $2 million.

Schools that went well over their general-purpose budgets, according to the district presentation: Continue Reading

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Oakland special education teacher shuffle: Memo offers rationale, but no numbers

Here’s the text from the memo the Oakland school district administration circulated yesterday with its rationale for the recent last-minute special education resource teacher reassignments. Deputy Superintendent Maria Santos told the school board that nine of the 26 teachers were reinstated to their original schools. It sounded as though more might follow.

OEA President Trish Gorham said this to the administration, noting that actual student numbers won’t be known until school starts: “It’s OK to admit you were wrong. Accept it, own it, hit the pause button. … For the sake of over 500 of our most vulnerable students who are affected by this outrageous proposal, do the right thing.”

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August 22, 2012

Memo on Program for Exceptional Children (PEC) Staff Reassignments

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