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A closer look at graduation and dropout rates in the East Bay

High school seniors earning diplomas this year may help schools and districts raise graduation rates for 2015, building on improvement seen in most districts between 2013 and 2014.

Just last month, the state released graduation and dropout rates for 2014, which showed 80.8 percent of students from the class of 2014 graduated, up 0.4 percent from the previous year.

But, during the same time, dropout rates statewide rose 0.2 percent, from 11.4 percent in 2013 to 11.6 percent in 2014. Those figures did not include students who continued their education without graduating, according to the state.

In the East Bay, overall graduation rates in Alameda and Contra Costa counties surpassed the statewide average, while dropout rates fell below. Alameda County’s graduation rate shot up 2 percentage points to 82.8 percent, while Contra Costa’s climbed 0.2 percentage points to 85.9 percent.

Dropout rates in Alameda County fell from 11.1 percent in 2013 to 10.7 percent in 2014, while Contra Costa County dropout rates dipped from 8.2 to 8.1 percent.

Progress in districts varied, with most graduation rates exceeding the state average and the majority of dropout rates falling below the state average. Here’s how East Bay districts stacked up, with 2013 and 2014 graduation rates followed by 2013 and 2014 dropout rates. Changes are in parentheses.

STATE: 80.4, 80.8, (+0.4); 11.4, 11.6, (+0.2)

ALAMEDA COUNTY: 80.8, 82.8, (+2.0); 11.1, 10.7, (-0.4)
Alameda Unified: 84.7, 86.0, (+1.3); 8.4, 8.6, (+0.2)
Albany Unified: 91.0, 89.7, (-1.3); 7.5, 6.4, (-1.1)
Berkeley Unified: 85.5, 89.0, (+3.5); 11.6, 9.1, (-2.5)
Castro Valley Unified: 94.9, 95.2, (+0.3); 2.6, 2.5, (0.1)
Dublin Unified: 95.6, 92.9, (-2.7); 1.6, 3.5, (+1.9)
Emery Unified: 80.0, 83.6, (+3.6); 17.8, 14.5, (-3.3)
Fremont Unified: 82.1, 92.6, (+10.5); 17.9, 4.5, (-13.4)
Hayward Unified: 76.7, 79.6, (+2.9); 19.2, 14.8, (-4.4)
Livermore Joint Valley Unified: 91.4, 90.0, (-1.4); 6.4, 5.9, (-0.5)
New Haven Unified: 79.9, 85.2, (+5.3); 9.2, 7.3, (-1.9)
Newark Unified: 87.9, 89.9, (+2.0); 9.9, 7.4, (-2.5)
Piedmont Unified: 98.1, 100.0, (+1.9); 1.4, 0, (-1.4)
Pleasanton Unified: 95.3, 95.7, (+0.4); 2.1, 2.0, (-0.1)
San Leandro Unified: 82.4, 85.9, (+3.5); 13.8, 9.2, (-4.6)
San Lorenzo Unified: 85.8, 85.4, (-0.4); 11.2, 10.7, (-0.5)

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY: 85.9, 86.1, (+0.2); 8.2, 8.1, (-0.1)
Acalanes Union High: 98.1, 97.8, (-0.3); 0.6, 0.8, (+0.20)
Antioch Unified: 77.8, 77.4, (-0.4); 11.2, 11.6, (+0.4)
John Swett Unified: 89.6, 83.9, (-5.7); 7.2, 14.7, (+7.5)
Liberty Union High: 86.9, 88.7, (+1.8); 4.5, 4.0, (-0.5)
Martinez Unified: 88.4, 91.2, (+2.8); 9.1, 5.7, (-3.4)
Mt. Diablo Unified: 82.6, 85.1, (+2.5); 12.4, 10.2, (-2.2)
Pittsburg Unified: 71.3, 74.5, (+3.2); 21.5, 20.2, (-1.3)
San Ramon Valley Unified: 98.4, 98.3, (-0.1); 0.4, 0.6, (+0.2)
West Contra Costa Unified: 79.9, 77.7, (-2.2); 13.3, 14.6, (+1.3)

Congratulations to the Piedmont district in Alameda County, which achieved a graduation rate of 100 percent! Kudos also to the Fremont district, which raised its graduation rate by 10.5 percentage points and lowered its dropout rate by 13.4 percentage points.

In Contra Costa County, the Acalanes district had the highest graduation rate at 97.8 percent. However, this was a drop from 98.1 percent the previous year.

The Pittsburg, Martinez and Mt. Diablo districts had the greatest increases in graduation rates, rising by 2.5 percentage points or more. The Martinez district saw the biggest dropout rate decline, falling 3.4 percentage points.

Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Nellie Meyer attributed gains to intervention and credit recovery programs, along with great teaching.

“We are very proud of our schools for their dedication and support of their students,” she said in a prepared statement. “We know that this is a K-12 effort and that strong graduation rates are a team effort.”

Graduation and dropout rates for individual schools can be found on a searchable database at:

Statewide graduation and dropout rates can be found on the state’s website at:

How do you think schools and districts could improve graduation and dropout rates even more?

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | 1 Comment »

Congrats to 13 East Bay Gates Millennium Scholars!

De Anza HS Gates Millennium Scholar Jasmine Gill.

De Anza HS Gates Millennium Scholar Jasmine Gill.

Congratulations to 13 high school seniors attending East Bay schools who have been named Gates Millenium Scholars!

Funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholar program was created in 1999 to develop “Leaders for America’s Future™.” One thousand students from throughout the country and U.S. and American Territories will receive scholarships through the program to pursue an undergraduate degree in any major or selected graduate degrees at accredited colleges or universities.

The program helps to remove financial barriers to education for high-performing, low-income students, according to a news release.

“We are constantly reminded that young people will need a quality education to remain competitive in the 21st century,” said Michael Lomax,president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, in a prepared statement. “Through their generous funding and program support, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amplifies the importance of investing in the next generation of extraordinary scholars to support our country’s economic strength and competitiveness.”

Here is a list of the scholars by county and school:


Berkeley High School, Berkeley: Adrianna Valle
American High School, Fremont: Justin Chan
Life Academy, Oakland: Lucinda Perez
Lighthouse Community Charter, Oakland: Anna Bui and Jarelly Martin
McClymonds High School, Oakland: Howard Kardel
Oakland High School, Oakland: Sherry Liang and Ky Gia Pham
Oakland Technical High School, Oakland: Sydney Nguyen
Skyline High School, Oakland: Deybi Rabanales
Tennyson High School, Hayward: Paula Albizures


De Anza Senior High School, Richmond: Jasmine Gill
Miramonte High School, Orinda: Elliott Thompson

This is the third consecutive year and fourth time in five years that a West Contra Costa district student has won the award, according to a news release. This year’s winner, 17-year-old Jasmine Gill,has been accepted to UC Berkeley.

The scholarship will cover the scholars’ umet financial need. In addition, the program will provide services to encourage academic excellence, mentoring for academic and personal development, and an online resource center that includes information about internships, fellowships and scholarships.

“Being named a Gates Millennium Scholar is a testament to Jasmine’s hard work and determination to succeed academically,” said Todd Groves, President of the West Contra Costa school board, in a prepared statement. “We are proud of her for achieving this honor. That a student from our district has earned this honor for four of the last five years speaks to the possibilities and potential of each and every one of our students.”

Gill plans to pursue a medical degree and become a pediatrician after studying integrative biology at UC Berkeley.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was young,” she said in a news release. “And I love working with kids.”

Gill is a member of De Anza’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement club and is vice president of the Health Occupations Students of America chapter. She has a 4.3 grade point average and is currently taking five Advanced Placement courses.

She also volunteers at a local Sikh temple, where she helps feed people and teaches Sikh history classes.

“In order to be successful,” she said, “dedication is key.”

Here is a story by reporter Doug Oakley about some of the winners in Alameda County:

More information about the program is at:

What do you think are the keys to success in high school and college?

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | 1 Comment »

Congrats to 36 East Bay Gold Ribbon schools!

Congratulations to 36 middle and high schools in the East Bay that have been honored by the state Department of Education with Gold Ribbon Awards!

These awards temporarily replace California Distinguished School awards, which are on hiatus as the state revamps its testing and accountability systems. Schools applied for the awards based on programs that include activities based on state curriculum standards, projects and practices that could be used as models in other districts.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” said Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a prepared statement when he announced the awards earlier this week. “They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right — embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate.”

Ten schools in Alameda County and 26 schools in Contra Costa County earned the awards. Here is a list of the award-winning schools by county and district:


Alameda County Office of Education: Envision Academy for Arts and Technlology.

Albany City Unified: Albany High.

Castro Valley Unified: Canyon and Creekside middle schools.

Fremont Unified: John M. Horner Junior High and F. Kennedy and Mission San Jose high schools.

Livermore Valley Joint Unified: Granada and Livermore high schools.

Pleasanton Unified: Thomas S. Hart Middle School.


Acalanes Union High: Campolindo, Las Lomas and Miramont high schools.

Antioch Unified: Dozier-Libbey Medical High School.

Byron Union: Excelsior Middle School.

Lafayette Elementary: M.H. Stanley Middle School.

Liberty Union High: Freedom, Heritage and Liberty high schools.

Martinez Unified: Martinez Junior High and Alhambra Senior High School.

Mt. Diablo Unified: Foothill Middle School and Concord High School.

Orinda Union Elementary: Orinda Intermediate.

San Ramon Valley Unified: Charlotte Wood, Diablo Vista, Gale Ranch, Iron Horse, Los Cerros, Pine Valley and Windemere Ranch middle schools; and California, Dougherty Valley, Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley high schools.

West Contra Costa: De Anza Senior High School.

In addition to their Gold Ribbon awards, Liberty High and the Envision Academy for Arts and Technology were also honored for exemplary arts education programs.

San Ramon Valley spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich said in an e-mail that the district received the most Gold Ribbon Awards in Northern California and the second most in the state, behind Los Angeles Unified. All of its comprehensive high schools earned the awards, along with nearly all of its middle schools.

De Anza High in the West Contra Costa district reported “significant improvement” in several areas, including nearly a 5 percent increase in its graduation rate and a reduction of nearly 10 percent in its dropout rate. The school’s graduation rate rose from 77.3 percent in 2012-13 to 82.1 percent last year, while its dropout rate fell from 17.2 percent to 7.7 percent during the same time period.

“We are proud of the progress that our students and staff at De Anza have made,” Board President Todd Groves said in a prepared statement. “This award recognizes their hard work and reinforces the investments we have made in that school and that community.”

The East Bay winners were among 373 award-winning schools statewide that will be honored later this month at regional awards ceremonies.

The complete list of Gold Ribbon schools is available by visiting

What do you think makes schools award-worthy?

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

How is the shift in state funding is affecting your local schools?

Do you know how the state’s new school funding formula is making a difference in your child’s school?

During the past year, every school district in California was required to create a Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, showing how it planned to spend new money allocated for low-income students, English language learners and foster youth, along with overall funding for all students. School districts were supposed to involve parents, students, staff and community members in creating their plans.

Now that the plans have been completed, students, parents, staff and community members are expected to hold their school districts accountable for following through on the promises made. But some plans could make it difficult for communities to track how well school districts are meeting their goals, according to a report released earlier this week by the Education Trust-West student advocacy group.

The report describes how districts developed their plans and offers suggestions for improvement as those plans are updated next year, said Carrie Hahnel, director of research and policy analysis for the group.

The organization analyzed 40 plans from some of the largest districts in California, including the Berkeley, East Side Union High, Mt. Diablo, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and West Contra Costa districts in the Bay Area. It also reviewed 60 more plans including Antioch’s in Contra Costa County and Alameda and Emery’s in Alameda County.

While some districts are taking bold steps to create new programs, the report found that others provided little specific information about how goals would be met and that most did not clearly show how supplemental funding aimed at disadvantaged students was being spent.

“While LCFF has sparked a remarkable level of public engagement,” she said, “community stakeholders have been left with LCAPs that offer frustratingly little insight into how LCFF will be used to increase or improve services for high-need students,” Hahnel said.

The group’s recommendations include:

– County offices of education, the state Department of Education and the newly formed California Collaborative for Education Excellence should offer better support and resources to districts to update and implement plans;

– The state should revise its reporting requirements to make it easier for the public to see how much funding earmarked for disadvantaged students is being spent, and should report how much supplemental funding each district is receiving;

– The state should require review of plans by county offices of education to be rigorous and consistent with each other, and should consider local and informal processes for community members to elevate concerns to the county level if they can’t be resolved at the district level.

In the future, the state Board of Education will create evaluation criteria to help communities gauge whether districts are meeting their goals. The report urges the state to make these criteria clear and to make data by which districts will be measured easily accessible to the public.

It also pointed out some “best practices” that could be implemented by others to improve their plans. These include creating an executive summary, along with user-friendly presentations without jargon and acronyms that no one but educators would understand.

“A year into this bold reform,” said Ryan Smith, the organization’s executive director, “now is the time to pause and ask ourselves if we have made decisions that will raise the achievement of our low-income students, English learners, and foster youth.”

Most district plans, along with samples of executive summaries from the Berkeley and San Jose districts, and explanatory materials from the San Francisco district, are available on the Education Trust-West website at

Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2014
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | 68 Comments »

Acalanes district “sues” residents, warning court may decide against them without their being heard

The Acalanes Union High School District has published the following legal notice in the Contra Costa Times, warning residents that the Contra Costa County Superior Court could take action that would adversely affect them, unless they respond by Aug. 18 to a complaint seeking to validate the issuance of $15 million in current interest bonds that will exceed the tax rate of $35.58 promised in the 2008 Measure E ballot language:








TO ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE MATTER, PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that you may contest the legality or validity of the matter by appearing and filing a written answer to the Complaint not later than August 18, 2014.

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 861.1, any person who contests the legality or validity of the matter will not be subject to punitive action, such as wage garnishment or seizure of real or personal property.


The Acalanes Union High School District has brought this action for the purpose of obtaining a judgment validating documents and processes relating to the issuance of bonds of the District (“District Bonds”) in an aggregate principal amount not-to-exceed $15,000,000 at a projected ad valorem tax rate of not more than $30.00 per $100,000 in assessed value which is projected to result in an ad valorem tax rate in excess of the initial projected tax rate for the issuance as originally projected in estimates included in Ballot Measure E, the November 2008 Proposition 39 Bond Measure Election approving the issuance of such bonds; the adoption of a Resolution Of Issuance Of Government Code Bonds; the execution of a Continuing Disclosure Certificate; and, the sale of such Bonds.

The purpose of the District Bonds is to raise money for the Acalanes Union High School District to fund projects to achieve energy-savings, for new and upgraded instructional facilities, and for needed repairs to school facilities, in addition to the other needs of the District as approved by the electorate voting on Measure E (which includes, to establish a ten-year technology fund, upgrade instructional classroom technology, replace worn, aging roofs, convert obsolete facilities into additional classroom space, upgrade electrical and energy management systems to improve efficiency and repair, construct, equip or upgrade school facilities), and, to pay all necessary legal, financial and contingent costs in connection with the issuance of the District Bonds.

CASE NO.: C14-01298


Contra Costa County Superior Court 725 Court Street Martinez, CA 94553

THE NAME, ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE NUMBER OF PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY IS: Sean B. Absher Jeremiah I. Nelson Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth 44 Montgomery Street, Suite 4200 San Francisco, CA 94104 Telephone: (415) 283-2240 Facsimile: (415) 283-2255

DATE: July 14 , 2014 Clerk, by D. WAGNER, Deputy [Insert Name of Deputy Clerk]
CCT# 5241182 July 18, 24, 31, 2014″
Appeared in: Bay Area News Group on Friday, 07/18/2014

Here are links to the documents the district filed in court.

Complaint seeking court validation to issue $15 million in bonds that will exceed tax rate promised in ballot language:

Exhibit A (July 2008 Board Resolution Authorizing $93 million construction bond measure election):

Exhibit B (December 2008 Board Resolution certifying results of Nov. 8, 2008 Measure E bond election):

Exhibit C (June 2014 Board Resolution authorizing issuance of $15 million in current interest bonds and seeking court validation for the issuance):

Here is my most recent story about the validation issue, which includes some video clips from the June meeting where the board voted 4-1 to issue the bonds and seek court validation for their decision, since it will require property owners to pay more than the tax rate their were promised in the ballot language:

I have received phone calls and emails from several area residents who are concerned about this issue and have indicated they may look into filing an answer to the court complaint. However, they are also concerned about the possible filing fee and are unsure how to go about filing an answer. Some believe this case could set a precedent for other districts that may also exceed tax rates promised in their ballot language.

Do you think district residents should contest the bond issuance?

Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Under: Acalanes school district, Education | 4 Comments »

National Merit $2,500 Scholarship Winners announced

Congratulations to East Bay National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winners, named earlier this month by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation!

Nastionwide, 2,500 Merit Scholars were chosen from among more than 15,000 finalists in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program. Those selected were judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies in their state, according to a news release. The number of California winners is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.

These winners were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who reviewed information submitted by the finalists and their high schools, including academic records, standardized test scores, leadership and other contributions to school and community activities, a student essay, and a high school recommendation. Semi-finalists were chosen based on their Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test scores from their junior years.

Winners can use their scholarships at any regionally accredited college or university in the country.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation urges the public not to compare high schools based on their numbers of Merit Scholarship winners, stressing that the program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The program does not measure the quality or
effectiveness of education within a school, system or state.

Here are the East Bay winners, listed by county and city of residence, school and probable field:


Alameda: Cari Noelle Ebel Hartigan, Alameda High, Architecture
Albany: Catherine H. Li, Albany High, Neuroscience
Berkeley: Jasper Phillips Burget, Head-Royce School in Oakland, Writing
Berkeley: Thomas Woolsey Peterson, Head-Royce School in Oakland, Acting
Berkeley: Katherine I. Reed, Berkeley High, Computer Science
Castro Valley: Amanda C. Leung, Castro Valley High, Medicine
Dublin: Christine Xu, Amador Valley High in Pleasanton, Biomedical Engineering
Dublin: Kimberli C. Zhong, Dublin High, Engineering
Fremont: Adarsh N. Battu, Harker School in San Jose, Business
Fremont: Krishna S. Bharathala, Mission San Jose High, Computer Science
Fremont: Shivani Chandrashekaran, Harker School in San Jose, Medicine
Fremont: Adrija K. Darsha, American High, Medicine
Fremont: Emon Datta, Irvington High, Biomedical Engineering
Fremont: Christopher D. Fu, Harker School in San Jose, Biomedical Engineering
Fremont: Arnav J. Gautam, Mission San Jose High, Computer Science
Fremont: Rosemond L. Ho, American High, Law
Fremont: Vivian Jair, Mission San Jose High, Business
Fremont: Michael Ju, Irvington High, Computer Science
Fremont: Lucy Chaolu Li, Washington High, Patent Law
Fremont: Levina J. Lin, American High, Pediatrics
Fremont: Yixin Lin, Washington High, Computer Science
Fremont: Jenny Z. Lu, Irvington High, Biomedicine
Fremont: Amal Rohit Nanavati, Mission San Jose High, Computer Science
Fremont: Yuming Qin, Washington High, Healthcare Administration
Fremont: Kerrie Wu, Mission San Jose High, Engineering
Fremont: Patrick Zeng, Mission San Jose High, Engineering
Oakland: Francesca Paris, Head-Royce School, Journalism
Pleasanton: Bryce P. Hwang, Foothill High, Molecular Biology
Pleasanton: Aditi N. Newadkar, Amador Valley High, Medicine
Pleasanton: Brian K. Shimanuki, Amador Valley High, Computer Science
Pleasanton: Jennifer R. Teitell, Amador Valley High, Law


Alamo: Charlotte M. Lawrence, College Preparatory School in Oakland, Public Policy
Concord: Sohyeon Hwang, Northgate High in Walnut Creek, International Relations
Danville: Lance A. Chou, San Ramon Valley High, Medical Research
Danville: Lia L. Dawson, San Ramon Valley High, Chemical Engineering
Danville: Ariana N. Moghbel, San Ramon Valley High, Medicine
Kensington: Rebecca L. Shoptaw, Head-Royce School in Oakland, Film Production
Martinez: Shreyas A. Bhave, Monte Vista High in Danville, Computer Science
Moraga: Marina S. Han, Campolindo High, Psychology
Moraga: Dhruv A. Suri, Campolindo High, Undecided
San Ramon: Katherine A. Camenzind, California High, Engineering
San Ramon: Sarah R. Hay, Dougherty Valley High, Biochemistry
San Ramon: Flora Z. Wang, Phillips Exeter Academy in NH, Undecided
San Ramon: Christine H. Zhang, Dougherty Valley High, Medicine
San Ramon: Brian L. Zhong, Dougherty Valley High, Chemical Engineering
Walnut Creek: Vishank Jain-Sharma, Monte Vista High in Danville, Academia
Walnut Creek: David Simon Shif, Las Lomas High, Mathematics

The complete list of California winners is at:

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

Congrats to Campolindo HS on its National Academic Decathlon championship title!

Campolindo HS Academic Decathlon team named National Champion for medium-sized schools 2nd year in a row!

Campolindo HS Academic Decathlon team named National Champion for medium-sized schools 2nd year in a row!

Congratulations to the Campolindo High School’s Academic Decathlon team, which has been named a National Champion for the second year in a row for medium-sized schools!

Campolindo placed 10th overall at the 2014 State Competition in Sacramento last March, competing against much larger schools several times its size. The overall winner went to the national competition, while the winners in the small and medium-sized categories competed online for their national titles, along with the second-highest scoring large schools.

Here is more about the accomplishment as described in a news release from the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

“Medium schools in this completion are high schools whose student population is between 650 and 1,300. Campolindo (California) was followed by New Jersey, 2nd place and Wisconsin, third place.

‘When I found out we won Nationals for the 2nd year in a row, I was incredibly excited,’ says Campolindo’s Academic Decathlon coach Paul Verbanszky. ‘The team has worked very hard to accomplish this. An opportunity like this does not come often in a lifetime. These are some of the finest students I have ever worked with in my 13 years of education!'”

Here is a link to final medium-school team and individual results:

Campolindo students were top-scorers in these categories as well. The students and team will be awarded trophies and medals, as well as scholarship money. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, presented the team with Congressional Recognition last week.

“I am really proud of how far our school’s Academic Decathlon has come in the three years I have been in it, and how successful it has become,” said Campolindo Academic Decathlon member Christoph Steefel, in a news release.

Teammate Graham Wade said, “I did not believe it at first, but I was really excited and happy that all of our hard work had paid off.”

Verbanszky teaches AP psychology and government/economics. He has been Campolindo’s Academic Decathlon coach since 2005.

The Academic Decathlon team is an after-school club with funding from donations and other fundraising.

“I am very proud of my students,” Verbansky said. “And, our team gives a big thank you to the Contra Costa County Office of Education for all of their support and hard work with Academic Decathlon, so that the students can have such a positive experience.”

The East Bay Regional Academic Decathlon is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education with the assistance of community volunteers. It provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of 10 academic tests and demonstrations.

The curriculum includes art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, essay, interview, speech (prepared and impromptu), and a Super Quiz™. About 170 high school students from 10 schools participated in the regional event.

The theme for this year’s Academic Decathlon was World War I. The Super Quiz™ focused on the subject areas the participating students had been studying, such as science, art, economics and literature.

The Academic Decathlon was created by Dr. Robert Peterson, a former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, who believed that everyone’s learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenges. The contest that has since become recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States, according to a news release. The U.S. Academic Decathlon was founded in 1981.”

Do you think more schools should send teams to the Academic Decathlon?

Posted on Monday, May 19th, 2014
Under: Acalanes school district, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education, Moraga | 1 Comment »

Congrats to 46 East Bay California Distinguished Elementary Schools!

California Distinguished School Certificate received by Hanna Ranch Elementary in 2012

California Distinguished School Certificate received by Hanna Ranch Elementary in 2012

Congratulations to the nearly 50 elementary campuses in the East Bay that have been named 2014 California Distinguished Schools!

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson announced this week that 22 Alameda County schools and two dozen Contra Costa County schools are among 424 elementary campuses statewide designated as distinguished, based on innovative strategies for narrowing the achievement gap.

“I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success,” Torlakson said in a prepared statement. “This award is well-deserved by these school communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work, and unwavering support.”
Here is a list of East Bay 2014 California Distinguished Schools by county and district.


Alameda Unified: Edison Elementary

Dublin Unified: Harold William Kolb Elementary (also award for Exemplary Physical Activity and Nutrition Program)

Fremont Unified: Ardenwood, Fred E. Weibel, James Leitch, John Gomes, Joshua Chadbourne, Mission San Jose, Mission Valley and Niles elementary schools

New Haven Unified: Pioneer Elementary

Newark Unified: James L. Bunker and John F. Kennedy elementary schools

Oakland Unified: Achieve Academy, Montclair Elementary and Think College Now

Pleasanton Unified: Donlon, Henry P. Mohr, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Vintage Hills and Walnut Grove elementary schools

Sunol Glen Unified: Sunol Glen Elementary


Lafayette Elementary: Lafayette Elementary

Mt. Diablo Unified: Mt. Diablo, Sequoia, Silverwood, Strandwood, Valle Verde and Walnut Acres elementary schools

Orinda Union: Del Rey, Glorietta, Sleepy Hollow and Wagner Ranch elementary schools

San Ramon Valley Unified: Bollinger Canyon, Coyote Creek, Golden View, Greenbrook, Hidden Hills, John Baldwin, Live Oak, Neil A. Armstrong, Rancho Romero, Sycamore Valley, Tassajara Hills and Vista Grande elementary schools

Walnut Creek School District: Walnut Heights Elementary

The “signature practices” that helped earn these schools their recognition will be posted online later this year. Signature practices of past campuses named as California Distinguished Schools are at

Each school is visited by a team of local educators to see how the signature practice have been implemented. In Contra Costa County, a team of 19 educators from the Contra Costa County Office of Education, along with 18 school district administrators and four retired district administrators visited the sites, according to a news release.

Greg Santiago, principal of Hanna Ranch Elementary in Hercules, was one of the district administrators on the site visits. Hanna Ranch was one of two West Contra Costa district elementary sites named as California Distinguished Schools in 2012.

Its signature practices were analyzing test data to provide extra support to low-performing students and trying to close the achievement gap between high-achieving Asian and Filipino students and lower-achieving African-American and Latino students by using culturally relevant teaching methods.

One such teaching methods is “call and response,” which allows students to chant responses to teachers’ prompts instead of raising their hands to be acknowledged. In reading the signature practices, it is clear that the principal keeps the staff, students and parents focused on them.

The school’s description of signature practices states: “The principal’s message about academics is simple, ‘You may not get it the first time, but you never give up!” Santiago heads up a school equity team, which walks through classrooms with a checklist that includes these questions: “Are students engaged? Are they participating? Is there bell-to-bell instruction?”

I met Santiago last month during a ride-along with Hercules School Resource Officer Greg Sanchez, who told me when we arrived: “This principal has got it down.”

What are the signature practices at your school?

Posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | 2 Comments »

A closer look at student fitness results in the East Bay


State fitness test results for students in grades 5, 7 and 9 released earlier this week showed that many children need to eat better and get more exercise to improve their aerobic capacity, strength and flexibility.

Based on six different tests of these areas, about a quarter of fifth-graders statewide met all fitness goals, compared to roughly one-third of seventh-graders and nearly 37 percent of ninth-graders.

Alameda County’s fifth-graders scored slightly higher than those statewide, with about 29 percent meeting all six fitness goals, while the same percentage of seventh-graders as those throughout California met the goals and 36.4 percent of ninth-graders met the goals. Contra Costa County students were also in the same range, with 28.1 percent of fifth-graders meeting all six fitness goals, compared to 31.8 percent of seventh-graders and 37.7 percent of high school freshmen.

Here’s a closer look at how fifth, seventh and ninth-grade students in some local districts compared to those throughout the East Bay and state:
Grade 5 Grade 7 Grade 9
STATE 25.5 32.4 36.5
ALAMEDA COUNTY 28.9 32.4 36.4
Castro Valley Unified 49.3 47.8 54.7
Dublin Unified 32.7 55.7 59.6
Livermore Valley Joint Unified 27.3 38.2 47.8
Pleasanton Unified 32.8 40.3 57.9
Sunol Glen Unified 70.0 50.0 (Grades 5 and 7)
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 28.1 31.8 37.3
Acalanes High 53.5 (Grade 9)
Antioch Unified 18.7 29.4 33.5
Brentwood Elementary 28.1 38.5 (Grades 5 and 7)
Byron Elementary 41.4 46.2 (Grades 5 and 7)
Clayton Valley Charter High 31.7 (Grade 9)
John Swett Unified 19.2 27.4 28.8
Knightsen Elementary 42.0 28.6 (Grades 5 and 7)
Lafayette Elementary 54.5 24.1 (Grades 5 and 7)
Liberty High 46.0 (Grade 9)
Martinez Unified 23.3 36.2 25.0
Moraga Elementary 66.7 64.9
Mt. Diablo Unified 17.8 28.1 27.1
Oakley Elementary 7.3 23.7 (Grades 5 and 7)
Orinda Elementary 53.9 44.7 (Grades 5 and 7)
Pittsburg Unified 22.2 20.4 21.5
San Ramon Valley Unified 50.0 43.8 53.0
Walnut Creek Elementary 50.8 39.3 (Grades 5 and 7)
West Contra Costa Unified 15.2 20.3 21.9

Seventh-graders at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek surpassed the Mt. Diablo district average and roughly matched the state average, with about 32 percent of students meeting all six fitness goals.

Anna Meehan, 13, who is now in 8th grade, said she likes PE classes because she knows it’s good to get her heart rate going faster everyday and to work a little harder as she progresses through the school year.

Maggie Claire McCoy, who is also a 13-year-old eighth-grader, said she also participates in club volleyball outside of school and is hoping to play on the top-notch Northgate High volleyball team next year. She said exercise helps to condition her body for after-school sports, as well as keeping her fit overall.

Andrew Rinella, another 13-year-old eighth-grader, said he thinks it’s a good idea to participate in after-school sports in high school, so that students can stay fit even if they don’t take PE in their junior and senior years.

Chris deClercq, chairman of the PE department at the school, said he and other teachers promote lifelong fitness and try to find something that every child can enjoy.

“We try to expose them to as many activities as we can,” he said. “Our goal is getting them to believe fitness is a good thing and that it can still be fun, even though it’s hard at times.”

Complete fitness results by school, district, county and state are available by visiting Click on “Physical Fitness Test Results for 2012-13.”

Why do you think older students score better overall than younger students?

Posted on Friday, October 25th, 2013
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | 1 Comment »

Candidate filing period for Nov. 6 election opens July 16

The filing period for local candidates planning to run for open seats in the Nov. 6 election opens July 16 and closes Aug. 10, unless an incumbent fails to file for re-election. In that case, the deadline is automatically extended to Aug. 15, according to political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen, who has compiled a long list of open seats in local agencies.

Here’s an excerpt of her list, which includes school board openings in Contra Costa and Alameda counties:

Contra Costa:

Acalanes Union High School District (two seats)
Antioch Unified School District (three seats)
Brentwood Union School District (two seats)
Byron Union School District (two seats)
Canyon Elementary School District (two seats)
Contra Costa County Board of Education (two seats)
Contra Costa Community College District (two seats, wards 2 and 5)
Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (one seat, Ward 7)
John Swett Unified School District (two seats)
Knightsen School District (three seats)
Lafayette School District (two seats)
Liberty Union High School District (two seats)
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (two seats)
Martinez Unified School District (three seats)
Moraga School District (two seats)
Mt. Diablo Unified School District (two seats)
Oakley Union Elementary School District (two seats)
Orinda Union School District (two seats)
Pittsburg Unified School District (three seats)
San Ramon Valley Unified School district (two seats)
Walnut Creek School District (two seats)
West Contra Costa Unified School District (two seats)

Alameda County:

Alameda Unified School District (three seats)
Castro Valley Unified School District (three seats)
Dublin Unified School District (three seats)
Fremont Unified School District (three seats)
Hayward Unified School District (three seats)
Livermore Unified School District (two seats)
Mount House Elementary (one seat)
New Haven Unified School District (three seats)
Newark Unified School District (three seats)
Pleasanton Unified School District (three seats)
San Leandro Unified School district (three seats)
San Lorenzo Unified School District (four seats)
Sunol Glen Unified School district (1 seat)

In the Mt. Diablo district, incumbents Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh have not yet publicly announced whether they intend to seek re-election. The teachers’ union has endorsed challengers Brian Lawrence and Attila Gabor. District residents Ernie DeTrinidad and Debra Mason have also told me they intend to run.

What are you looking for in a candidate?

AUG. 22 UPDATE: I have received a phone call from Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Guy Moore informing me that MDEA has endorsed retired College Park HS Principal Barbara Oaks, now that Attila Gabor has pulled out of the race due to health concerns.

Posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district | 63 Comments »