Education in Oakland

Archive for May, 2007

Christian Broadcasting Network Visits American Indian PCS

Posted by novometro on May 31, 2007

Thanks to Caroline from for pointing out this piece on American Indian Public Charter School from Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network.


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Shocked. Just Shocked

Posted by novometro on May 30, 2007

The East Bay Express has been hammering away at State Senator Don Perata for enjoying the fruits of his fund-raising a little too much. While the Express has spared no expense in poring over Mr. Perata’s well-endowed and complex collection of campaign committees, the articles have presented the Senate president’s behavior as if it were something new under the Sacramento sun. In two back-to-back articles, the weekly does not mention that John Burton, Mr. Perata’s predecessor as President Pro Tem, was also a gifted fund-raiser who didn’t mind political contributors paying his tab at a good restaurant .

In fact, even now that he is retired from the Legislature, he still doesn’t mind. Mr. Burton controls nearly $430,000 in a campaign fund that is ready and waiting for the 75-year-old veteran lawmaker should he decide to run for the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2010. I asked him on Wednesday if he plans to run. He said he is “seriously considering it.” That was after saying saying fuck when he picked up the phone, and before hanging up because he was busy talking to two foster kids.

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New Oakland Blogger

Posted by novometro on May 30, 2007

New NovoMetro correspondent Sonja Brooks sent us this account of a cell phone lost and found in West Oakland.

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No Miracle Here

Posted by novometro on May 29, 2007

In the past few months, Oakland Unified School District officials have said that they are going to get tough on the 29 charter schools operating under OUSD oversight. The Junior Space Exploration Academy and the Space Exploration Academy were the first schools to feel the effects of the new regime when OUSD revoked their charters in February. So far, the crackdown has ended there.

There are six new charter schools scheduled to open next school year, and the first of three existing charters up for renewal in 2007 will be approved Wednesday night. Since it opened in 2002, Lionel Wilson Prep (it’s an Aspire school) has more than doubled its enrollment to 535 students in the 6th through 12th grades. It has raised test scores, and according to OUSD staff, ranks in the top 20 percent of OUSD schools. Most interesting were the results of a survey, which found that 73 percent of graduates are either in higher education or engaged in “satisfactory work.”  The school has a 100 percent graduation rate and 86 percent of parents and students say they are satisfied with the school.

The details are interesting in light of the discussion surrounding American Indian Public Charter School. Here we have a charter school with a non-charismatic principal, that has raised its test scores slowly and unevenly (no suspicion of cheating), and where three out of four graduates consider themselves well-positioned for the future.

Of course, the school isn’t perfect. The renewal of the charter hinges on Lionel Wilson Prep better addressing the needs of its English language students (the school is more than three-quarters Latino), change its charter to reflect an admissions policy that gives a preference to a sister elementary school (Lionel Wilson is an Aspire school), and make sure that all teachers are “highly qualified” as mandated by No Child Left Behind (two out of three teachers at the school were non-NCLB compliant in 2006).

Because Lionel Wilson Prep still has a score of less than 5 on the Academic Performance Index, it is eligible for grant money from the California Department of Education. Wednesday’s school board meeting also includes approval for Lionel Wilson Prep’s application for a $744,000 state grant.

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The Missing Principal

Posted by novometro on May 18, 2007

The Tribune has an update on the Fruitvale principal mystery:  No one’s talking. Not Cherie Ivey. Not the district. Will this prove to be another cheating scandal?

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Fruitvale Principal Suspended

Posted by novometro on May 16, 2007

Only two years ago, Oakland City Council honored Fruitvale Elementary principal Cherie Ivey with an “educator of the year” award. Now, with only a few weeks left in the school year, the well-regarded principal was suspended by OUSD brass last Friday, according to people in the know. The school wouldn’t confirm the suspension, but it did say that Thomas Hardy, an assistant principal, “is now in charge.”

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Charter Schools: Cradles of Democracy

Posted by novometro on May 16, 2007

Okay, it’s from the Hoover Institution, but a study released Monday found that private schools and so-called schools of choice might be more successful at fostering civic values than ordinary public schools. The study’s purpose is clearly to give ammunition to school voucher advocates, a very bad idea in my opinion. But it’s worth reading the article as readers of this blog argue about the effect of charter schools on democracy.

The following paragraph from the researcher’s article in Education Next is of particular interest to people following reform in Oakland schools?

“The most intriguing explanation, in my opinion, for the apparent school choice advantage in promoting civic values is a generally higher level of order and discipline in schools of choice. Public charter schools and private schools tend to be more well-ordered education institutions than neighborhood public schools, especially in urban environments. A well-ordered and nonthreatening education environment likely contributes to students’ feelings of security and confidence. Such feelings might be a necessary precondition for young people to develop a willingness to tolerate potentially disruptive political ideas and political groups and to venture out into the community to promote social causes, an idea suggested by Alan Peshkin in his case study of a Christian fundamentalist school. There is a clear theoretical justification for linking a well-ordered education environment with stronger civic values, and I hope that future studies will explore this possibility. “

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More Test Cheating News

Posted by novometro on May 16, 2007

The Oakland Tribune reports that three teachers at the East Oakland School of the Arts agreed to resign at the end of the school year after helping students on the California High School Exit Exam.

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Education News over the Weekend

Posted by novometro on May 14, 2007

Just as NovoMetro readers were debating the possibility that American Indian Public Charter School was cheating on standardized tests, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday that it found tests at 124 schools have been compromised since 2004. While the article does say that the California Department of Education has no way of checking if a school engages in massive cheating, the relatively small size of the cheating discovered in the last three years strengthens my opinion that a school-wide conspiracy lasting several years is improbable.

Another education article in the Chron Saturday reported that graduation rates are at a 10-year low. While Oakland has one of the worst with 46 percent, OUSD outperformed other school districts, like Los Angeles Unified, by holding steady from 2005 to 2006. LA dropped from 46 percent to 41 percent.

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A Schtick Too Far

Posted by novometro on May 9, 2007

The East Bay Express has an article this week about the antics of Ben Chavis, the principal of American Indian Public Charter School. I’m glad to see that he might have taken his routine a bit too far with the wrong crowd. As the Express notes, his success has allowed him to get away with a lot. But the righteous outrage of offended Mills students and their professor (they were on a tour of the school) may force Mr. Chavis to tone down his routine, which is designed to rile “white liberals,” “multi-culturalists,” and other bogeymen of the Libertarian imagination.

In several long letters, the Mills group complained about the spectacle of Mr. Chavis’ taunting, mean, and over-the-top behavior to just about every education official they could think of. But the Express notes that neither the county board of education or OUSD’s superintendent has much authority over AIPCS. That’s good.

Still, I hope this experience will cause Mr. Chavis to retool his act. Or better yet, have the sense to not behave like a maniac when an education professor from Mills College comes calling. The spectacle of a foul-mouthed principal hurling racial insults distracts too much already from the many good things the school does. It keeps the school from becoming the model that it could be to struggling schools in the district.

The teachers, administrators, parents obliged to design the “new” Cole Middle School because too many years of poor test scores have caused the “old” Cole to close, borrowed heavily from American Indian Public Charter School. For example, at the new school, which opens with a single sixth grade class next year, teachers will remain with the same group of students for three years.

I’ve always enjoyed talking to Mr. Chavis, and I consider him a friend. When we first met, he said something like, “You are one big white guy. That must be hard in the Bay Area.” (I told him that white is beautiful wherever you are) He then gave backhanded encouragement to two students doing homework in his office by saying, “Black kids doing well in school! What’s this white man going to think?” The kids smiled nervously, like the children of an unpredictable parent, who is liable to say something embarrassing at any time.

Once we got past the race routine and into matters concerning education, and yes, race, the conversation got interesting.

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