Is smaller better for low-performing Hayward schools?

Here’s a press release from Congregations Organizing for Renewal, which is hosting a forum to discuss plans for the redesign of Longwood and Burbank elementary schools, and Tennyson High. They were all on the state’s list of lowest-performing schools released earlier this year. COR is advocating a small schools model:

May 7, 2010

Hundreds of Parents Gather to Demand Research-Based Redesign of Persistently Low Performing Schools in Hayward

Hayward – Parent, community and faith leaders from Hayward will have a community action forum with Mr. Paul Frumkin III, HUSD School Board President, and Ms. Maribel Heredia, Vice-President, on Tuesday, May 11th at 7 p.m. at St. Joachim Catholic Church, focusing on the redesign of Hayward’s lowest-performing schools.

California Department of Education’s list of the 5% lowest performing schools in the state includes several schools in Hayward, including Longwood and Burbank Elementary Schools, and Tennyson High School. Another 17 schools are in Program Improvement (PI) and  according to the CDE, HUSD has not met the Adequate Yearly Progress for two consecutive years, with grades 2-5, 6-8, and 10, not meeting the proficiency levels in both English-Language Arts and Mathematics.

“My child is in 3rd grade, and she can’t read,” said Raquel Anguiano, a COR leader and parent of two at Longwood Elementary. “Things need to change now.” Olivia Montero, another COR leader and parent of two at Cherryland Elementary, said she cannot wait any longer for Hayward schools to improve. “My children are bound to struggle in middle school because they are not getting a strong foundation at the elementary level. Many kids are dropping out because our school system is not working.”

COR parent leaders have visited model schools in other districts, and have researched leading school reform methods to address these serious issues. They learned that smaller, more personalized learning environments, along with academic rigor, cultural relevance and other best practices better support students, teachers and parents than large, overcrowded schools. Small autonomous schools also cost less, increase both academic achievement and attendance, and decrease violence. Think College Now, for example, employed these strategies in Oakland, and dramatically increased student achievement.

Even though HUSD has cut almost $18 million dollars from its budget for next year, it is eligible to receive anywhere between $50,000 to $2 million in School Improvement Grant  (SIG) funds for each one of the schools listed in California’s list of lowest performing schools to transform or turn around the schools. The district could also apply for another $650 million through a federal grant program, along with an additional $506 in matching funds recently made available by foundations, to expand innovative school improvement projects (“Investing in Innovation Funds”). COR parents urge the district to pursue these funding opportunities and partner with experts to redesign their schools into high performing model schools, based on proven strategies used in other districts. 

For more information about this event contact Pablo Madriz at (510) 459-0683 or POMadriz@gmail.com

COR is a multi-faith-based federation of 11 congregations and 25,000 families across south Alameda County including Hayward, Union City, Fremont, San Lorenzo, Cherryland, Ashland and San Leandro. COR has worked to stop youth violence, improve public education, and increase access to health care and affordable housing at a local, state, and national level. COR is part of People Improving Communities through Organizing, or the PICO National Network, which represents one thousand congregations and a million families nation-wide. 

Eric Kurhi

  • Jeff

    Why are we still trying to fix the problem when the school and the teachers are clearly not the source of the poor performance.

    “My child is in 3rd grade, and she can’t read,” said Raquel Anguiano. I like to know if Ms. Anguiano is helping her child read at home. If so than it is obviously not enough.

    No one gets better by only getting instructions at school alone. One needs to practice and practice to get better. Eden high school music program is not where it is today if they only rehearse during school hours. The kids spent countless hours practing at home and afterschool. Why would anyone expect anything less for reading and mathematics.

    This community action forum is a waste of time if they don’t address the real problem and that is parental involvement and particaption.

  • I’m not sure what is meant by the term “small schools model.” I know that in recent years, there have been concerted efforts by certain foundations (the Gates Foundation especially) to encourage larger schools to be broken down into “smaller schools,” often creating “theme schools” (art, environment, etc.) which students can “choose.” The problem here is that when these “smaller schools” do show improved performance, it almost all comes from the mere fact that the families “self-selected” — those parents who are engaged enough to choose a school are more supportive (of their children’s educational efforts in general) than those who don’t make any affirmative choice.

    Over and over again I see “school reform” efforts that are really disguised mechanisms to extract students with supportive families from those whose families are not as supportive (whether by choice or situation). The problem is that there is no “net gain” for any subgroup of students — just a manipulation of data that makes the “new” schools (smaller or not) appear better.

    In other threads, I see discussions about “letting the state take over.” I don’t view that as a positive step (though it seems almost certainly inevitable).

  • Oops, I forgot to mention one other important point — the ranking of schools by test scores is leading teachers in many schools to focus completely on only the two tested subjects (math & reading), not just to the exclusion of all other curriculum, but also to the exclusion of elements of those subjects which are not “testable.” The result is that even when students’ scores do improve in these narrow areas, their actual proficiency in these subjects declines when measured any other way, and of course the students lose out completely on history, science, and other subjects for which test results aren’t included in the school or teacher evaluations. This was one of the reasons we chose to remove our child from Hayward schools.

  • teachermama

    I became acquainted with COR several years ago, and I have mixed feelings about them. I admire their tireless work to advocate for our community and their ability to corral resources to get things done. I have found them to be disingenuous however, one more than one occasion. For example, they are advocating a school reform model that displaces teachers in the interest of the community, but I suspect they are really going for a power grab. If COR wanted to work with all stakeholders in an educational institution, they would work through the established channels – SBDM, SSC, PTA, ELAC, etc. to express their concerns and find ways for teachers, parents and admin. to collaborate. Instead, they prefer to “redesign” a school according to their own vision and push out at least half of the teachers – a move to divide the very two parties that most care about the kids in question (parents and teachers). That’s a big gamble. If they succeed, I sincerely hope they are happy with who and what they get.

  • Concerned Hayward Citizen

    Maribel Heredia, an officer of COR and HUSD trustee, let her true agenda be known publicly on Wednesday at the school board meeting. When speaking of the possibility of HUSD going into financial receivership, she made the following statement: I will not allow this district go into receivership. I will personally see to it that that doesn’t happen. If that means we have to CLOSE SCHOOLS or convert to CHARTERS, I will not let that happen.

    I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist.

    Interesting, don’t you think? She would rather have our schools close down than to go into receivership. What kind of sense does that make? Well, the truth is, if a district goes into receivership, the school board is rendered powerless, as is the district administration. This is the single solitary reason that Janis Duran and Maribel Heredia are fighting so vigorously against it. Clearly, by Ms. Heredia’s comments, she would rather have schools be closed down BY HER OWN HAND than have her voice quieted as a trustee. Is this the leadership that we want for our children? She would rather have them displaced, bussed, redirected or simply removed, than let go of the stranglehold she has on HUSD.

    While receivership is never something anybody strives for, districts do come out of it on the other end. Frankly, the misguided judgments made by the trustees couldn’t be anything worse than what the state has to offer. This board has stuck its unqualified nose into the classrooms for too long. They are making decisions on curriculum and daily schedules that they have no business making. They are making personnel decisions based on nothing. The punch line is, Ms. Heredia pulled her children out of their schools. She placed one of her children at Faith Ringgold because “the classes were too big” at East Avenue. Hmmmm…..I wonder how that happened. Ironically, she fought like a prize fighter on Wednesday to ensure that Faith Ringgold maintain their small school with 20:1 classes. Where was her fight for the rest of the schools? The trustees are micro managing…and doing it badly. These decisions are based on the biased agendas that are brought to the board by the trustees. The most damaging, it seems, is the agenda of Ms. Heredia whose close ties to COR make me question their motives. I don’t know if Ms. Heredia believes that the winks and nods between the COR officers and herself go unnoticed by the community at the board meetings or not. Well, they are not going unnoticed. The perception is, this group had an agenda, they found an electable candidate for the board, they got the votes and now they are running the district through her. Give us some credit, Ms. Heredia. At least try to be discreet about your collusion.

    Every time the name COR is mentioned, people begin to speak in hushed tones and look over their shoulders. Why? Why is everyone so afraid of them? Why do they have the power to close down schools and redesign them to their liking? I would love for someone to dig a little deeper into the COR leadership and its motives. After Ms. Heredia’s comments on Wednesday, it’s clear what her agenda is. POWER POWER POWER!!!!!!

    HUSD has been taken over by a band of rogue activists. It’s time to take back OUR schools. Don’t let this power hungry mob hoodwink this community into giving over OUR schools. RECALL THIS SCHOOL BOARD! THE FUTURE OF OUR CITY IS AT STAKE!

  • qodrn

    Smaller class sizes have not upped the test scores of schools in Ca at all. From what I can see, they are a failure. I went to Catholic school, and at no time had less than about 45 kids in my class. We are all doing fine, thank you.

    I would also like to congratulate Hayward Leadership Public High School on their CASEE (spelled wrong I know) total school scores: Math 97%, English 92%. Wonder how Hayward’s other High Schools did?

  • Concerned Hayward Citizen

    Where I said “…couldn’t be anything worse than what the state has to offer”. Should read as, “the misguided judgements of the trustees are much worse than anything the state has to offer”. That’s what you get with hasty late night editing.

  • John W. Kyle

    To: Teacher Momma and Concerned Hayward Citizen

    my delayed respomnse to your abovew items is lengthy but free of the usual Kyle typins errors… thus the delay to your above remarks. Kurhis will ‘flip’ at the length?

    Congregations Organized for Renewal (COR) is a result of collaboration between a famous so called ‘radical’ by name of Saul Alinsky and his many admirers within Churches and Religious organizations. The Jesuit Order of Priests associated with the Catholic Church involved themselves with Saul Alinsky to the extent that they had invited him to meetings and lecture opportunities at their Colleges and Universities.

    They admired him for his effective thinking on how, in essence, best serve the poor and disenfranchised. Eventually individual members of the order assisted by lending themselves to direct action activity used to bring power brokers ‘to the table’. The action was seen as a positive response to some Papal Encyclicals, especially ‘Rerum Novarum’ ( On the condition of labor; a first response to ‘Das Kapital‘, published in 1891 by Pope Leo.)

    Some of Saul Alinsky’s associates were actually brought into presence of Jesuit seminarians to offer advice/instruction on pro-active techniques for establishing social justice.

    In my personal career I acted under instruction of my employer to see what could be done to avoid re-occurence of that situation where a large number of volunteer activists invaded and laid on the floor of those public areas, during ’banking hours’ in a local branch bank office of my employer.

    I visited the local office of that group which was directing it’s attention to some awful rental unit management practices of a particular borrower. It was an experience I will never forget but not so oddly, I fully understood the cause of their concern and actions. I next visited Fremont High School in Oakland where the same group had organized a public rally using the school auditorium to pillory my employer using the same property as the cause celebre for the meeting. I pulled an attending Jesuit aside, advised him of what Jesuit education I possessed and how it was an offense to the teaching of the church to continue…… he began by removing the accusatory evidence hanging about the entry foyer while I took my turn at speaking before the crowd. To my dismay, my action annoyed a young woman who was employed as a mentor to a Federal Home Loan Bank which sponsored a bank industry group being organized to ‘tailor’ loans outside the usual guides to solid banking practices. ( Another story).

    The point is that delayed reaction to honest complaint, ignored too long, brought needed disruptive action necessary to resolve valid complaint.

    Somewhere in the late 1990’s I was visited by a Jesuit involved with PICO. A street wise activist, he had been referred to me by the Pastoral members of St. Joachim’s Parish. The purpose of the visit was to seek my help in a lead position while organizing COR here in Southern Alameda County. I begged off for several reasons but offered some assistance if he found a Spanish speaking leader which I thought necessary, as an absolute, if anything was to be accomplished. Within weeks, a young woman presented herself and again asked for my presence as a leader in the group. Again I declined on the basis of language deficiency, but suggested that she make inquiry to The Pastor of the Catholic Church located within the old Decoto District of Union City. My offer of assistance was qualified to the extent that I would attend to mailers and broad ideas involving real estate practices as I knew them to exist in the rental market. Cor never acted upon my offer, which was just as well because I did not have any idea of how I would find the time to take some training on ‘street activity’ especially since my linguistic ability was limited to English.

    My disappointment with COR is limited to the fact that I had sought assistance from them in the matter of re-establishing the site resident program at Longwood School. Despite at least two letters and several phone calls I received only a message that a ‘street worker’ would be in contact…. An event which never came to fruition. I did attend a COR meeting at St. Joachim’s about two maybe three years ago. They gave Dr. Vigil seemingly unlimited speaking opportunity….

    Unfortunately there was no attempt to communicate with English speaking attendees.

    Yes there is a problem with COR but it is limited to their concentrated effort in addressing problems of Spanish Speaking folk. Apparently, us ‘gringos’ have no right to hold an interest in the success of HUSD. I fault COR for that single reason.

    If it appears that Ms. Heredia is using her office to advance her own children’s needs rather than that of the whole….. It may be just an ‘appearance’ of wrong doing. I give the lady much credit for her personal, deep interest and exhibition of proper parenting. She pursued the book problem at Longwood school through the Williams Act, when none but her consciously observed the problem. Just as I did in 1994, I’d exhibit much annoyance and would picket any attempt at unreasoning recall attempts directed at that lady.

    Therein lays our biggest problem. There seems no annoyance existent toward lack of parenting skills sufficient to correct the Absence and Transience problems that are costing us something near $5,000,000 in lost Average Daily Attendance money.

    Which leads to my interest in attempting to ‘sell’ our need for a town hall meeting. Increasing intensity of interest by Spanish speaking folk, needs to be matched by us who are White, Black or categorized in other ‘groups’

    Nothing will improve HUSD except intense interest of all groups, including those elderly types who think they have nothing to offer.

    A town hall meeting along the guidelines I recently suggested is needed. The only restraint I would impose upon those attending would be to refrain, as an absolute, from making accusatory remarks, finger pointing etc. We need positive, constructive ideas backed up by a renewed spirit of volunteerism centered solely on future actions.

    For me as a ‘believer’, my greatest fear is not having sufficient explanation to offer our Creator, for much earlier offerings of excuses for not contributing greater time and effort in meeting the solutions necessary to better education processes.

    Hats off to COR…. (Would they please let me into the party?) Would some kind soul pass this to the guy who identified his annoyance with me while using the well educated and somewhat revealing nom de plume “Hispanic panic victim’’ The way that gent came at me last February or March, in this Blog, you would think I was the author of that infamous law in Ari-zany. I suspect his wife to be an administrator at HUSD.

  • “Concerned Hayward Citizen” paraphrased Ms Heredia as saying, “I will not allow this district go into receivership. I will personally see to it that that doesn’t happen. If that means we have to CLOSE SCHOOLS or convert to CHARTERS, I will not let that happen.”

    While I agree with CHC that a “no matter what the cost” attitude isn’t wise, I certainly believe that HUSD should consider some very drastic cost-cutting measures to avoid a state takeover, because a state administrator will rush to cut costs without much concern for the needs of the community. If the budget can’t be balanced without closing 3 schools, then no matter how awful that is, the HUSD board should do it, rather than letting the state take over and close 6 schools.

    Of course, we don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” but the HUSD board must be willing to take some very unpleasant actions to avoid a state takeover, because a state takeover would be very, very unpleasant.

    At some point, of course, the HUSD trustees must say “no,” and should refuse to take actions that would “make HUSD the problem instead of the solution” to our city’s education needs — even if that means forcing a state takeover.

    A state takeover doesn’t bring in extra dollars, but it does bring in extra expenses (for the state administrator, staff, and consultants).

  • Another consideration: a state administrator would probably look very (VERY) kindly toward the potential for grants from large foundations (e.g. Gates, Oracle). That’s what happened in Oakland — schools were pushed into “small schools” reforms which created the superficial appearance of improved performance, primarily by extracting the best-performing and best-supported students from the “general population” into the phantom “small schools” and leaving the most at-risk students in the “general population,” where their prospects for success were worse than ever.

  • Concerned Hayward Citizen

    Mark, good points, but here’s the way I see it. Our trustees have been making poor decisions. These are not just fiscally bad decisions, they adopt bad policy that is damaging to our children. They are surrounding curriculum, scheduling and daily operations that have absolutely no fiscal implications. If the state takes over, their only agenda will be to bring HUSD to fiscal solvency. That will be painful, of course. But we won’t have to continue to deal with the other insane, dictatorial mandates imposed by the trustees.

  • teachermama

    Hayward Unified single-handedly weakens the argument for local control of public education. This district has been getting more and more bizarre through the years, and this new board takes the cake. It is becoming increasingly difficult to educate children here, mostly due to unceasing deluge of poor-quality, “mandatory” assessments that drive curriculum and instruction. By the time you have prepared students for the tests, administered them, and gone over them later so they can learn from their mistakes, you have accounted for a huge chunk of instructional time – completely disengaging to the students and practically useless to the teacher (we are supposed to be data-driven, but the assessments are so poor that you don’t get much useful info). This has lead to sinking teacher morale and skepticism from parents who expect their children to acquire meaningful skills in an authentic learning environment. Predictably , now we are getting lots of advice from admin. about increasing student engagement – here’s a thought: how about making the instruction relevant, engaging, rigorous and thoughtful? Think the students might respond to that instead of alternately berating and bribing them to do well on worksheet after worksheet? Instead of focusing on the students’ learning experiences, the D.O. people visit the school sites once in a blue moon to scrutinize the schedules, data input, pacing guide alignment and semantics of how the standards are written. The only preference for HUSD running our schools instead of the state has to do with the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t.