OUSD open thread

I don’t write about the schools. But you guys obviously want to talk about them. Rather than continue the current education-related discussion on a post about police, why don’t y’all move it over here.

98 thoughts on “OUSD open thread

  1. VivekB

    from the prior OPD thread:

    I know i’ve heard this idea before, but i never paid attention to the reason it can’t be done in public schools, wonder if y’all know:
    At my kids school’s, my kids are in afterschool until 5:30pm, since the wife & I both work. They have a “homework club” on M/T/W. School lets out at 3pm, the kids play for 1 hour, then at 4pm everyone has to go in and do homework for 1 hour. I can’t remember, but I think one day is reading, one day is math, one day is whatever social studies is called nowadays (culture?). The kids that are in afterschool are usually psyched, because they typically finish 75% of their weeks homework in just those 3 hours, plus they have other kids to ask questions of. Not much work to do after hours, except for dads like me who make them do another 30 mins/day anyhow.

    Turn public schools into an 9:00am->5:00pm affair for every single kid. Follow the schedule outlined above, nobody is allowed to pick up their kid until 5pm without it being considered an ‘early absence’, and only absences allowed per year.

    Kids are kept off the street, but 2 hours/day on homework in a free-form setting. Or 60 mins of ‘free time’, 60 mins on homework. But, it’s all quiet time, and any kid who steps out of line repeatedly is suspended, then expelled. There’s no public social contract to teach those who don’t want to be teached, and don’t make the whole school suffer because of them. I don’t care if it’s considered ‘throwing them away’, they’re the ones who threw themselves away.

  2. Patrick

    I like it. It keeps kids in school longer, gives them structured time to complete homework tasks, and provides a way to rid the schools of chronic problem cases. We could even use the Measure OO funds to pay for it!

  3. Chris Vernon

    In response to questions about Claremont Middle School:

    The current Principal is leaving. The new NeXO for middle schools in North and West Oakland is Jaime Morantz who was the principal during Edna Brewer’s turnaround over the last few years. Brewer was and is similar to Claremont in that it is located in an area more affluent than most of Oakland and has some very strong feeder schools (Crocker Highlands and Glenview being two of them).

    The word is that Ms. Morantz very much has Claremont on her radar screen. All the elements are there – it’s a small middle school (roughly 450 kids), there are a group of committed parents, some strong programs. If the school gets a strong principal (which seems likely with Morantz steering the process) and a solid influx of families from the strong feeder schools (Chabot and Peralta among others) it might well improve dramatically and quickly.

    Vivek – I couldn’t agree with you more – schools should be open and running enrichment and/or homework programs for students until at least 5 pm. Crime stats show that is when at-risk kids in middle and high school are most likely to get into trouble, especially in a country that typically has both parents/caregivers working full-time. There is a win-win here for all of us. But do we as a city, state, society have the political will to fund these sorts of things? It doesn’t appear so.

  4. Ralph

    And that is what i am talking about. From 3 – 6th grade, I attended a school which had aftercare. Since both my parents worked, this is where I spent the hours from 3 – 5 and sometimes 6. They gave us some free time for recreation, but the expectation was you did your homework.

    Improving student performance is not a complicated science. VivekB is spot-on although if it were up to me I’d make it 8:30a – 5p. With an 8-12 Sat component and mandatory summer hours. Too many students who have parents who either lack the means or inclination for summer enrichment activities lose grounds to peers who do.

    Maybe the poor performing schools should adopt this practice. If the students parents either don’t understand the material or won’t instill good habits, it would seem pointless to send the child home to do the homework. Establish programs in the schools where students can get the help they need. And if people want to be bad seeds, kick them out. Why should the bad conduct of the few screw it up for the many who want to do well. (Perhaps they are practicing for future seats as a state legislator.)

  5. livegreen


    Where we disagree is that improvements in scores are improvements in scores. The kids at all the schools I mentioned have both improved their scores vs. similar ethnicities in other schools, have overall (all students) improved their scores over prior years, as well as vs. other OUSD schools. AFM students at these schools have an API above (the Elementary) or on par (Brewer Middle) with the overall API of all students.

    I agree to disagree with you about this, ALL of this IS much better than other OUSD schools, even if that is not enough.

    Where we can agree on is that ultimately comparisons between kids should be between kids, regardless of ethnicity, race, etc. I am in TOTAL AGREEMENT, and that should be the ultimate objective.

    Regarding programs I’m interested in hearing more about your thoughts. Maybe you can elaborate on what you meant earlier by Enrichment programs vs. “white guilt programs”, and specifics on what programs you think would work?

  6. livegreen

    Re. VivekB’s proposal for a longer school day, I’m in total agreement. This is something I’ve thought of also and this is fundamental to unsupervised kids both
    getting into trouble and creating trouble for the rest of us.

    So how do we get this to work? The challenges would seem to be funding and
    program management (esp. if the teachers don’t want the extra working hours,
    since many do homework, prepare materials, etc. during that time).

    Is Measure OO a viable funding mechanism? Let’s find a way to get a move on this. Because if we don’t, who else will?

  7. Art

    Many districts in other parts of the country already do this—and I suspect that some OUSD elementary schools are achieving this de facto because most students are enrolled in after-school programs. I taught at an East Coast public school that had a music element of the curriculum, and all of that instruction happened after the official school day ended—families had to commit to having students stay for it in order to attend. The bigger issue is making a longer day the norm such that funding comes directly from the district rather than through a hodgepodge of nonprofit organizations, grants, and other sources, as happens today. There’s also a staff issue, since teachers are already working more than 8 hours a day with prep time, so adding 2-3 additional hours of programming—and the requisite planning time—isn’t a very viable option.

    Broadly speaking, achieving this requires that communities acknowledge the importance of out-of-school time and fund schools better. Right now, after-school programs are optional and schools have no obligation to provide them, which means they’re often first on the chopping block. This is especially problematic because the focus on testing and academic performance has pushed the arts and physical activity out of the school day, so the only place many students get this enrichment is after-school programming. If the program is good enough, even those families who don’t rely on it for care will opt in—see some of the stronger after-school programs at OUSD schools (e.g., Spanish immersion). Basically, we need to get to the point where “we don’t really have the money for after-school this year” sounds the same to people as “we don’t really have the money for fifth grade this year.” We’re closer than we were a few decades ago, I think, but still have a long, long way to go.

  8. livegreen

    Revised API’s out today, and Brewer’s scores went up. They’ve passed Montera to become the best open (non-charter) school in Oakland, are in the top 20-30% statewide, and among “similar schools” are in the top 10% statewide.

    Before Ralph and Vivek say how underwhelmed they are, let me say again that this is positive, even if not enough. Brewer is on a steady move up and if they can continue towards that 97th, 98th, 99th percentile important to Vivek then we might get him to send his kids (or grandkids) to public school one day…

    Of course only a few middle schools in Oakland doing well (2 open and 3 charter) is not good enough, and is not going to save OUSD or Oakland. However it IS better than having no good Middle Schools like we had a few years ago. The key is to learn and spread so other Middle Schools and High Schools get on the same track.

    Here’s the link to the Tribune blog:


  9. Patrick

    There is really no magic here – look around. Cities that fully fund police, fire and schools get all the bling extras, too. Citizens that are safe – and educated – lead to a better life for everyone.

  10. Ralph

    think i just spent an hour going thru the new API numbers on sfgate. i need a new hobby.

    oh livegreen, have you not learned…i am not underwhelmed by the performance of EB and Montera. Bella Vista is a bit troubling. (There has got to be an easier way to analyze these stats.)

    livegreen, what is it that you think that these high performing schools are doing that can be replicated in the poor performing schools. i still stand by a few key practices which will make a world of difference:

    1) longer school days (see KIPP*)
    2) longer school year (KIPP)
    3) weekend hours (KIPP)
    4) contract among educators, parents, and students (KIPP)
    5) more books at home
    6) immersion programs (kids starting with a handicap need the intensive to reach their peers)
    7) introduce students to college and college requirements early – 1st grade is not too soon – (parents from middle class are already doing this)
    8) more arts – theatre, symphony, museums
    9) exposure to more than their neighborhood

    Use Measure OO money to support academic immersion programs which have proven tangible results. The idea that any afterschool program get gets money w/o showing results flies in the face of all that is holy.

    *in general KIPP schools require longer hrs and contracts whether this happens in Oakland I don’t know. but generally speaking I believe these changes are needed in the poor performing schools.

  11. Art

    Ralph, why is Bella Vista troubling? I was excited to see them hit 800 (even with as little stock as I put in the API scores). Significant increase over last year, and puts them (barely) over the state performance target. Given the number of parents who look at that benchmark when deciding where to send their children, that’s a big deal.

  12. Ralph

    BV when compared statewide is aces but when compared to school with similar enrollment it is just a 2. This is where having more than just raw numbers would be helpful. Parents are the only people who look at those schools. Homebuyers are also very interested in those scores.

  13. Californio

    I’ve heard there’s a movement to shut down Claremont MS. Anyone have info. on this?

    It’s small (347 kids.) A lot of the local merchants don’t like the disruptive students, the school isn’t performing well, and that real estate would be worth a fortune in the area it’s in.

    Anyone in Rockridge heard the rumor?

    * * *

    API scores alone are like crime stats; they don’t tell the story, no matter how you filter them. One thing that isn’t often mentioned is that within the underperforming schools, there is a group of bright, college-bound kids who have very high test scores. The Oakland Tech Paidaia program, for example, creates a school-within-a-school environment for high-aptitude learners. One of the many ironies of this is that good universities, seeking more diversity, will often favor students from schools like Tech over schools like Piedmont High, SAT test scores etc. being equal. Strange world we live in. Anyway, it’s obvious that the primary determinant of academic success is the family, not the school, and certainly not the test scores of the school.

  14. VivekB

    I live a few houses down from Pasta Pomodoro, and I would guess that I would have heard any such rumors if they weren’t passing fancies. Not cuz i’m so plugged in, but there’s a few pretty big Claremont boosters on my immediate street.

    Let me be two-faced about it, and say that I would *not* support shutting it down. Yes, the kids are a bunch of trouble-makers, but shutting it down isn’t the right path – that’s just NIMBY’ism. If there are folks out there who are willing to put their kids in, and I have several neighbors who just can’t afford private school, then let’s see what we can do to bring it up to a level where folks who *can* afford the alternative still choose to go to public school. Kids aren’t inherently genetically stupid, it is all in the expectations we have of them.

    I went to public school, and am generally sad that the cons outweigh the pros for my immediate district. If I ever had a lobotomy and moved to LaMorInda, my kids would most definitely go to public school. Hell, that’s the only reason i’d even bother moving there.

  15. Ralph

    Longer school days should also go a long way to solving that problem of teenagers in stores. I noticed that OUSD just hired a new superintendent. Quite frankly, I think they should have hired us.

    On a separate note, I hope OUSD does not have the same administrative headaches as the school system where my mom worked. In her later years, she went from the school to headqtrs. Retired now, she recently learned that the offices she and the other lawyers occupied is going to be converted to a bullpen b/c the person who supervises them doesn’t know what they are doing when they sit in offices. Mind you, the big dog sits on a different floor, so in addition to being insulting it really makes no sense.

  16. livegreen

    Californio and Chris Vernon have reported two separate things (above) about Claremont, one with specifics and one as rumor. I would substantiate rumors before believing them.

    The reason the Claremont subject came up is because of it’s geography it makes sense to try to flip it into a good school, and I heard they’re looking at instituting some programs to improve the learning environment. That’s just the first step.

    Chris goes into detail above, and I’d be interested in any future updates. (Ok Chris?) Esp. if Jaime Morantz is involved…It’s also good to hear from Vivek that there are some very active parents there. On the other hand, action speaks louder than words, and it still has to happen.

    Re. the Businesses, part of the solution depends on them contributing, not trying to tar & feather a school and run them out on a rail. (I bet the opinions of the businesses are not uniform anyway). The businesses, the local Neighborhood Association & NCPCs, and Jane Brunner need to work with the Claremont PTA & Administration to set both the foundation and then the programs that will improve. Brewer gets a lot of support from fundraising, and that include City Councilpeople.

    Is Jane Brunner helping contribute to Claremont’s transformation?

    For some reason in big cities like Oakland citizens and businesses expect schools to get better on their own without any assistance or participation, but in smaller communities on the other side of the tunnel everyone gets involved, even citizens and businesses that don’t have kids in those schools.

    Come to think of it, it’s kind of like most people never participate in City Counsel, Oversight Committee, or other meetings (unlike most people on this blog) and then (surprise, surprise) complain about the outcomes…

    It takes a village, or in this case a neighborhood, to raise a child…
    It also takes a village and it’s citizens to raise a City…

  17. livegreen

    Ralph, I agree with all your proposals.

    Since KIPP is a charter school, and receives a lot of outside funding (Tipping Point, Ronnie Lott, etc.) the question for them is can they spread their programs inside Oakland to have more in-depth impact here, or are they more interested in telling the world how great they are by spreading themselves across the Bay Area or country by having only a very small impact in any one troubled community? (As their website appears to show).

    Already major small school/charter funders like the Gates foundation and the Full Circle Fund have left Oakland and OUSD cannot take up the slack by themselves because Charter Schools are more costly in every way (facilities, administration, etc.). (Seems these two funds have short attention spans and operate like some corporations on a 1/4 basis and then leave so they only have to show short term benefits to their funders).

    But that doesn’t mean the lessons they offer can’t be applied to Public. So I agree with your suggestions and the lessons KIPP has to offer, and would be interested in comparing those to what Brewer Middle School has done. Then find out what’s best to start implementing in what order, and get communities active…

    Can anybody offer specifics about what Brewer has done?

  18. Ralph

    livegreen, have you read No Excuses, Closing the Racial Gap or Outliers? Both will tell you that probably the key component to success is the culture. Take Lincoln, for example, I am betting that not all those students come from high income familes but they are some of the highest test scores in the area. It is all about culture, by which I mean what type of values does the family have toward education. The armchair educators commenting on sfgate say the same thing.

    Not sure what you are saying about Foundation money in public schools but if the schools aren’t exhibiting any results then it makes sense to withdraw funding. It does not make financial sense to continue funding programs which don’t demonstrate positive result. (Of course that has never stopped politicians from funding Head Start, which has never demonstrated any results.) Miss Oprah with all her billions opted to fund a school in Africa. Before hitting it big she was on Baltimore TV. I know she knows that there are schools here in the states that could use her largesse, but the truth is if the parents don’t care no amount of money is going to make a bit of difference.

    Trouble, I think, with trying to replicate some of the KIPP policies in public schools are reluctance of teacher unions and this vague unwritten social contract regarding public education. Some people in this country think that even the most incorrigible need an education so public schools will always be saddled with these misfits who should be in juvie.

  19. livegreen


    –The Foundation money hasn’t entirely left Oakland, and EB Community Foundation and smaller & local foundations (like those funding KIPP) are doing a lot of good things. Re. Gates & Full Circle, I mentioned these 2 because they were instrumental in founding the small school movement in Oakland (as Gates is doing around the country). But it was always part of their funding model to leave afterwards. They didn’t wait around to see which Charters are working and which aren’t (and some are as KIPP & the API’s show). You’d think they would want to to replicate the successful models, or bring successes from other places here, but they didn’t get that detailed.

    –I agree with you re. KIPP and the teachers unions. Re. misfits, they can’t be put in juvie until they do something wrong. You want to sit back and wait until that happens (as Oakland has been doing) and then say “see I told you so”?
    You can’t just say they’re misfits and then lock them up. And if you right them off automatically (based on racial or class profiling) first you can’t do that, and second it wouldn’t help even if you wanted to. Doing nothing just leads them down the path we don’t want them to go down, as does locking them up based on profiling before they’ve even done something wrong…

    There’s a lot of kids not getting any direction at home (not their fault, they were born into that) but are on the fence and not sure how to act or what to do. There are other kids who’s parents are low-income but working very hard and can’t pick them up at 3pm. So the kids are free to leave school and get in trouble.

    Most parents of these kids are actually hard working families who can’t handle this simple logistical hurdle (school getting out early while they’re at work) because of economics and the crime that surrounds their neighborhoods. If it was the majority of families and kids that were creating crime and in gangs, I can tell you right now that we’d have a lot more murders in the City than we do.

    I’ve not read the No Excuses or Outliers but I will try to. Only remember one family does not create a Culture. Two of the definitions of Culture in the dictionary are:

    -the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group
    -acculturation: all the knowledge and values shared by a society

    Social group and society mean all of us. We can get into a discussion of how inner city culture developed, how it’s been affected by slavery (legitimate excuse or not it’s the root cause), the decline of middle class america (exasperated in inner city & african american working class areas, with a decline of 45% in the last 20 years). But we can have this kind of discussion back and forth ad nauseam. The key is to talk about practical solutions that work, like KIPP can show for Charter Public Schools, and Brewer can show for Open Public Schools.

    Potential solutions that you outlined very well earlier. So can we go back to some of your practical points and how we implement them?

  20. David

    I’m more interested in the number of kids that actually are proficient in a national test.

  21. californio

    The last time I heard anything about Claremont disappearing was at a 2008 site council meeting. David Chambliss, the principal of Claremont, made an allusion to it at that time, but I haven’t heard anything more.

    It’s interesting to hear outside comments on a school when your kid goes there.

    One thing my daughter, a student at Claremont, told me about the testing they just concluded, is that some of the material on the tests had never been taught. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, I don’t know. She also felt it a bit unfair to ask students to recall history information from three years of Middle School, without any prep for the tests. Mesopotamia blends pretty quickly with Egypt in the mind of a 13-year old who hasn’t read anything on either for two years.

    Is it possible more prep work was done at the schools that scored higher? Who knows.

    There are always micro-stories within the mountains of test data on which we rate the schools.

    I agree with Vivek above that it would be a shame to lose Claremont. If we Oaklanders wanted monoculture, there are plenty of places we could move to, but let’s not make College Ave. one of them.

  22. David

    There are plenty of schools in the inner cities that do great jobs. They’re called “Catholic schools” in many cities east of the Mississippi. Unfortunately Catholics and their schools aren’t nearly as well established here as they are in, say, Milwaukee, Chicago, NYC, Boston, etc.

    They do the job better and for less money (including “outside” funding) than the vast majority of inner-city public schools.

    Maybe we should copy that model.

  23. grrljock

    I’ve been following this OUSD/education thread, and just have some comments. To put my comments in context, I’m relatively new to Oakland (been here 2 years), so still learning about the various systems here. My spouse is a KIPP teacher, and we have a 3-year old, so the state of education/OUSD is pretty darn important to us.

    1. Head Start – I don’t think this program can be summarily dismissed as showing no results. My quick online search using PubMed and Google Scholar gave me the sense that though there is consensus about the short-term benefits of Head Start, there are still a lot of questions about its long-term impact. This uncertainty is in large part because it’s extremely difficult (and time-consuming and costly) to track participants longitudinally and also to analyze variables that have varied so much over the years.

    This Harvard College Economics Review article (http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/hcer/?p=33) gives a very clear summary of the recent findings on the impact of Head Start. This second link leads is one of the reports that the author wrote, if anyone’s curious about details (http://www.rand.org/labor/DRU/DRU2439.pdf).

    2. The importance of culture: as mentioned in the HCER article above, Nobel laureate James Heckman (economics) has done a lot of research on the importance of non-cognitive skills ( values, attitudes, and motivations) on individuals’ success (see an interview here:
    http://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications_papers/pub_display.cfm?id=3278). He emphasizes early childhood education as the best way to develop these skills in children and forestall future problems (for these individuals and society).

    3. The KIPP world (in terms of funding, staffing, management, attitude) is so different from the public school world that –as has been noted–it’s impossible to transport its best practices to another system without corresponding changes to the other system. To be clear, I’m not saying that it’s all good at KIPP and all bad at public schools, or vice versa. I’m just saying that practices must be put in context to understand their success/failure.

  24. livegreen


    What does your daughter think about the learning environment at Claremont. What’s good, what needs to be improved, and what are some of the biggest things you’d like to see there that are missing?

    Re. David Chambliss, it’s strange that a principal would make an illusion to it, without being afraid of causing a stir. I assume he’s the one that Chris says is leaving?

  25. californio

    Yes, David is leaving.

    The biggest problem at Claremont is the unruly kids. They tore a new English teacher to shreds last September–she was crying in front of the class, then was absent, then quit. Young 22 year old from NYC if I recall. So there was no English class for a month or so, just an idiot substitute who didn’t teach anything and let the kids stand on top of the desks and so forth. There’s some theft, and some inter-racial harassment, not big stuff, but unpleasant. That’s her and my main complaint.

    Other than that, the teaching is adequate but lackluster. Not much inspiration, but they do cover the basics. The level of math is actually higher than it was 30 years ago when I was in school–they start learning algebra in like 4th grade now.

    There’s a very dedicated band teacher, Renee Briggs, who brought the band from half a dozen kids three years ago to probably 75 now. They’re always winning Bay Area contests here and there, and there are some promising musicians coming out of it.

    Not one art class.

    Not one foreign language class.

    So I guess the good part of Claremont is that the level of Math, English, and Science is fairly high, and the band is good. There’s also a nice garden they made, and a computer animation class that’s pretty sophisticated.

    What isn’t so good is, first, the roughneck kids, who at worst make learning impossible. Second, the uninspired teaching which I feel is partly related to these statewide tests themselves, and to the Open Court system earlier. Third, no art and no foreign language. This seems outrageous to me.

    I’d like to see the school stay and get better. Whatever the test scores are, it’d be nice if they could learn Spanish and French. But they don’t get tested on these, you see.

  26. livegreen

    Californio, Too bad to hear about that poor teacher. You’d think they’d have some system in place to help her and come down hard on the students, and offer basic security in class or out of class. Anything being done about that?

    I’ve heard Brewer has a program for students who disrupt classes. This gives the school a way to address the kids problems, and it helps the environment for the kids who are trying to learn. What about doing that?

    Re. the Claremont media lab, here’s a link to an article where it’s been featured (a small amount of good news). At the same time it gives a glimpse of all the problems:

    and another article:

    BTW, are Jane Brunner and the Neighborhood Associations/NCPC’s participating in possible solutions?

  27. californio

    Well, part of the problem is that the pay is so low and the conditions so difficult that the administration has trouble attracting any teachers at all. So a lot of the teachers are brand new and obviously just waiting until they get married or find a real job, sort of like a Peace Corp experience. They stay a year or two. This syndrome precludes finding teachers with a real grip on classroom management, which is what it takes. That’s what this teacher lacked. Classroom management is not, by the way, about being mean or harsh, any more than taming a horse is. It involves humor, acting skills, passion, and a ton of other things, as well as the will to put a kid in his place instantly and authoritatively.

    I don’t think it takes better security, either. There are some teachers, vastly more experienced than the newcomers, who know how to handle the classes themselves, and they’re the ones who are able to really teach. Excuse me, really able to teach.

    I’m not too involved with the goings-on at the school, but I haven’t heard of Jane Brunner participating. For the most part the schools seem to run independently of the council people.

    Not sure what the neighborhood groups could really do. The school needs veteran teachers. Several good ones, e.g. Sr. Puente, the legendary Spanish teacher, have retired in the past few years, and the young ones coming up, while they’re smart and motivated, don’t always have the experience to manage the classes. There’s something almost cruel about putting 22-year olds in front of the blackboard. You know what’s going to happen.

  28. livegreen

    What I meant by security is, if they don’t actually do anything criminal (like assaulting a teacher, throwing things at them, etc.) but are disrupting the class, dancing on desks, etc. as you described, there has to be consequences, a disciplinary procedure or something. Right?

    I’m not sure how Brewer or Montera address this, but they do address it.
    As I understand it the teachers are able to refer at-risk kids to either a program that focuses on them, or counseling, etc. This way in-class disruptions are lessened, there’s a better environment for the kids who want to learn, and the kids who are on the fence (capable but subject to the negative influences) receive positive peer pressure.

    This doesn’t begin to address the academic side but it sets the stage for calm classrooms and a positive learning environment. Does Claremont have any programs like these?

  29. livegreen

    About Jane Brunner & local community associations and businesses, I refer back to my comments about “it takes a village (or neighborhood) to raise a child”. At Brewer and Montera the school bands and programs interact with the neighborhood (the bands from both schools have done performances at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, local churches, etc.).

    But more fundamentally City Councilpeople and businesses, although they can’t teach, they can help raise money either for after school programs, and facilities improvements. Sometimes they cooperate with OUSD through the Administration.

    What the neighborhood can do is, with the PTA, put pressure on their elected officials to participate. I believe that’s what Brewer and Montera have done, and as I understand it they didn’t even have to put a lot of pressure on their City Councilipeople because, hey, they got it. You improve the school, you improve the neighborhood, and you lower crime (long term of course).

    If Jane Brunner isn’t participating then she should be. And if she doesn’t figure this out on her own the neighborhood should help her…

  30. californio

    A lot of the disciplinary procedures come from the teachers themselves, and in the case I described, the class was being taught by a young kid who didn’t believe in discipline.

    Yes, there is a program at Claremont for dealing with this–they use in-school suspensions, where the unruly ones get sent to one of the portables for a bit o’ time out.

    Maybe in a larger school there’s a whole track for the at-risk kids. There just isn’t a lot of staffing at Claremont right now to have this happen. The school counselor went on permanent disability this year, and she was the one to handle the disruptive kids when they got really out of hand. David Chambliss is doing about three jobs at once, as are some of the teachers, but there’s only so much one person can do. He’s putting out fires half the time. The kids steal eggs from Trader Joes and throw them at cars, and he deals with the irate car owners. That kind of thing. What are you supposed to do when an English teacher suddenly quits a month into the year, and all you have is a green substitute who doesn’t want to teach or discipline the kids? This is the kind of problem Claremont is facing.

    Tracking seems to be the de facto solution to a lot of these problems. It’s only semi-in place at Claremont.

  31. livegreen

    As I understand it the Brewer programs don’t track them. They work with them alongside classes. So there’s no 2nd school in place. It’s services built around the classrooms.

    BTW, not all of these are OUSD funded. Some of these are funded through M-Y.

    Sounds to me like Claremont’s not mastering the funding mechanisms that are out there, and the PTA and Rockridge Community aren’t mastering how they should use their political pressure to involve their City Councilpeople.

    Probably too used to sending their kids to private school, writing off OUSD and assuming it funds itself, and using their political capital to fight housing, enforce environmental and other trendy issues. Then when it comes to education and crime they just assume somebody else should take care of it automatically without having to lift a finger.

    Though I admit that’s just a guess and I could be wrong about their attitudes, interest & activity in these areas…

  32. Ralph

    I hate the fallback argument that young inexperienced teachers don’t have the ability to manage a classroom. First and foremost, children should not be acting a fool when they go to school. Call me crazy but when we went to school we were well behaved. If these children want to act like animals, then we should either put them in cages or apply electric shock therapy.

    More seriously, pair the new teachers with experienced teachers. Ensure a certain ratio of experienced to green teachers at each school. Set the social contract with the students up front. Let them know the expectations and outcomes upfront. I still wonder if these will make an appreciable difference if the parents don’t instill discipline and a culture of learning at home. But a boy can dream.

  33. len raphael

    CA, your description of Claremont makes me feel like an idiot for telling my new neighbor to send his precocious awkward son there. when the kid told me the other day that the last foreign language teacher left/retired i assumed he was exaggerating. (Sr. Puente taught my younger son there in the 90′s. He was a top notch teacher who taught kids skills via Spanish language training that generalized to many other academic areas.)

    other than getting jumped on his second day at school (by a latina), he doesn’t seem too worried about his safety. He just says the teachers are boring and most of the kids not so smart.

    Isn’t CMS the only non charter MS for entire North Oakland? all those graduates of Peralta, Chabot, and Hillcrest can’t all be going to parochial and private schools or commuting to the few charter schools.

    Then there’s Emerson elementary. Big sign outside the school saying how they’ve exceeded state improvement goals. But if these API’s mean anything, most of those kids cheerful and cute as the dickins, are headed for the OUSD dumpster.

    -len raphael

  34. livegreen

    Ralph, I agree. It’s like Claremont has absolutely no system.

    My bet is Californio & others had a much different experience in their
    feeder (Elementary) school and wouldn’t have expected this (correct me if I’m wrong Californio).

    Len, Many probably go to private school, or transfer to Montera or Brewer. Geographically Kaiser is in Hiller Highlands, and per OUSD maps feeds into Claremont. Yet I just read on a neighborhood listserve that most of Kaiser’s 5th grade class is headed for Brewer.

    They’re fleeing there. What kind of wealthy neighborhood treats it’s local school like this?

    Meanwhile all they’d have to do is oblige the kids to go to Claremont and they’d probably balance the school out with good students. IF they laid the foundation to show that the atmosphere had improved they might have a chance at convincing people.

    But I still say the Neighborhood and Politicians have to become involved. If locals know they’re being supported it will create more confidence that the school will improve…

  35. Deckin

    A couple of random comments:

    1. Outliers is a joke. I repeat a joke. Mozarts early works aren’t that good? Are you kidding me? 10000 hours of practice makes for proficiency? Every single aspiring and failing musician has practiced multiples of that. Could it be that John Lennon had something called talent? Could it be that it’s talent that enables someone to get more out of whatever practice they put in? Nah.

    2. So school until 5PM and then on the weekends too? Why not just take the kids away from their parents completely? Has it occured to anyone that the liberal answer to the failings of the underserved is beginning increasingly to look like Plato’s answer in the Republic? Remove the children from their dull parents?

    3. Everyone seems to be dancing around the elephant in the room. What makes a good school are good students. Full stop. Schools turn around when the bad students move on or are kicked out and better ones replace them. I know it scares many to hear this, but all of the evidence supports this. There’s absolutely no large well done study showing dramatic turnaround within a group of the ‘underserved’ that didn’t involve wholesale culling of problem students. I don’t have any great answers about what to do about this fact, but nothing can improve until we stop taking Hollywood myths (pick your favorite ‘naive but idealistic new teacher moves to troubles school and learns valuable lessons in dance and hip-hop while getting students to see how Shakespeare was ‘keeing it real”) for reality. If a school like Claremont were to institute an entrance exam (we used to have those for public schools, you know) or to restrict to its geographic area, we all know what would happen.

  36. californio


    You’re somewhat right in when you say that our elementary school was quite different from Claremont. What I liked about Claremont, as opposed to both Montera and Edna Brewer, which we visited too, was its small size. I also felt that Claremont was in a time of transition and there was a lot of energy in making that happen, and I liked that.

    I hope I haven’t unduly bashed the school. One thing my daughter and her friends like about it, in a strange way, is that is tough and urban, and not lily-white. That gives them a sense of confidence and coolness. None of this core group of white, college-bound kids wants to go to suburban high schools, even though several could be in the Acalanes district right now. One girl pestered her parents to take her out of Julia Morgan and put her in Claremont. They’re all happily enrolled at Tech now with one exception who is going to a charter school.

    Another odd benefit of this kind of school. All these kids are totally anti-drugs. Why? Because they don’t associate drugs with star athletes who come from well-to-do households. Drugs are ghetto, and they define themselves as non-ghetto.

    So there’s a certain self-confidence that comes out of having to stand up to these unruly little punks, and that’s something that can’t be measured on tests. And I don’t think I’ll have to worry about the drug problem later on. The teaching in general doesn’t fly too high, but then it never did in any public school I ever went to, either.

    * * *


    The comments about keeping kids longer raised my eyebrows, too. Where do you stop? European schools, at least French ones, keep the kids longer than we do, from 8-5 if I remember. But it’s for instruction, not because the state feels parents can’t do the job of raising their kids. Also, the European system has different presumptions than ours. There, your education is done at the end of high school, and only a few go on to college as it’s not necessary for most. Here, we assume that real education starts after high school, which is why we have such an extensive college/university system. To some degree, the public K-12 system in this country is a holding tank, child care with educational activities.

    But school can’t and shouldn’t take on parental responsibilities. The liberal viewpoint at its worst is that Johnny doesn’t fail math, math fails Johnny, and this makes it utterly impossible to impose any standards. Claremont is not to this extreme, and I doubt if many others are, either.

    I think we need to bring back vocational schools and teach things in high school that kids can use to get a job. It’s not as simple as “good” vs “bad” students. Some aren’t cut out to solve equations and write elegant prose. Ironically, with all our emphasis on diversity, that’s one aspect we leave out.

    The really disruptive kids already are “culled.” Maybe what you mean is that we need to cull more of them sooner. I would agree except what’s culled is discarded, and I’m not sure that’s the verb I’d choose. Intervene, maybe.

  37. livegreen

    Thanks for filling in about the positives of Claremont, and good to know they’re there too. That said, sounds like there’s ample room for improvement…

  38. Ralph

    I don’t like Outliers but Gladwell lifted a couple of passages regarding education which make the point on which we all (or at least most of us – still not sure about livegreen) agree. Specifically, it is all about the culture at home. School systems can institute all the new age programs they want, but if Johnny Knucklehead’s parents don’t instill in him the value of education and a culture of learning, expect high academic achievement, and discipline little Johnny then little Johnny will be a drain on the educational system. I have long advocated that children who want to be disruptive need to be pulled from the classroom. If they don’t want to be there, then take them out and let the others get an education. Perhaps require them to spend a few weeks in baby lock-up.

    Schools can’t be parents, but the reality is the only way some of these low birth weight behind the curve students are ever going to reach the level of their better off peers is if they receive intensive and additional educational training. Middle and upper class parents give this to their children. Lower income children need the intensives just to get on the playing field.

    Can you explain to me why anyone would would find a tough urban school cool. This is what I would call warped perception of racial identies. The following may be extreme but acting like thugs and criminals is not something I want to see in a school. My expectation is students will behave in school like they would in church. If students want to act like thugs and criminals, I think we can find them a place.

  39. californio

    I’m not sure what is cool about ghetto toughness, but it is. One of the curious things about our culture is the rap phenomenon, for example. Here a few inner city kids with no musical education began pounding out a new rhythm sometime in 1979, and within 15 years, there was Mexican rap, cowboy rap, rap from Senegal, rap from the suburbs of Paris, rap from Haiti, in short, a new and near-universal musical form that enormous numbers of young people are drawn to. You don’t have to like it–I don’t–but it is impossible not to recognize the cool value it has. Same with sagging. Half the good little boys from Chabot are trying to sag, with predictably absurd results.

    There’s a long American tradition of the outlaw, starting with the origin of our country itself and leading through John Brown, all the stage coach robbers of the early West who have been mythologized in countless movies, gangsters from the 1930s, similarly mythologized, and even the Free Speech Movement and the anti-Vietnam demonstrations of the 1960s.

    “Ghetto” is no more than a contemporary version of the Boston Tea Party or Matt Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde. “Ghetto” is American outlaw. In this lies the world’s fascination for it. It’s why white boys try to sag.

    * * *

    Claremont, by the way, is not filled with young thugs. There are some kids who play incredible trumpet solos, others who run a mile in seven minutes, others who make YouTube videos, others who write like adults, others who raise money for Children’s Hospital on their own. A relative few disruptive kids seem disproportionately visible.

  40. Ralph

    californio, your explanation of sagging is the most irrational and dumbest argument in support of it that I have ever read. young people are going to express their disagreement with parents and authority, but when you leave the house you need to look like belong to someone. I suppose you would be okay if your 5 year old daughter left the house dressed brittany spears or one of the multiple teenage tramp superstars.

    and now ghetto is a movement. please. ghetto is not a movement. it is a perception of how some white people think that brown and black people live. do you know where white people who “sag” go? COLLEGE. do you know where black people who “sag” go? JAIL.

    And yes, we tend to concentrate on the unruly, incorrigible students at the expense of those doing well. But that is always the case. Think about how often you have good experiences in a store and how often you have bad experiences. Tell me which one are you likely to tell people just of gp.

    With the school, I think we inherently know and acknowledge the good students as there is no way schools can have high test scores without some 3 std dev students. (7 min miles? kids need more gym classes, they should be better than 7min)

  41. len raphael

    Ralph, what CA was describing as one of the attractions of Claremont to middle and upper middle class kids fits the same range of attrraction to my kids and their cohorts there in the nineties: from we’re not suburban whitebreads to white wannabe’s. heck, it’s not the different from what attracts many middle class 20 somethings to move to Oakland in recent years. harmless all around. with my two sons (who went on to tech) going to claremont provided them with an alumni group that physically protected them at tech (something that is probably much less important at Tech now). going to tech from a better middle school directly into the excellent high achiever programs there, probably still means you’re hermetically sealed from the ghetto kids (unless you play sports). all you’ve really learned about the other kids is not to use the bathrooms, not to stare etc.

    On Ralph’s point about US k12 schools as a holding pen, there is a theory which anecdotally fits, that for high achieving kids, as long as the kids don’t get stuck with needles when they walk in the classroom, or the roof fall on their head, what k-12 school they attend makes very little difference in the rest of their lives, despite what their parent’s fear.

    CA: What is Claremont’s capacity? Has it’s enrollment dropped dramatically?

    what is KIPP?
    -len raphael

  42. Ralph

    “an alumni group that physically pretoceted them” That is the problem. Students should not be going to a school where people need to protect them.

    KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program, charter school started by 2 former Ivy leaguers after their tour in Teach For America. Hopefully, the below link works:


  43. livegreen

    Ralph, Why do you have to be mean and insulting, using words like “dumbest”, when you disagree with somebody? Why not just disagree nicely?

    On top of it Californio wasn’t even supporting “sagging”. He specifically says how absurd it looks.

  44. Ralph

    livegreen, I made sure I called the argument dumbest. I never attack a person. Further, CA says of “sagging” white people doing it look absurd. So, if only some people look absurd doing it, it must follow that others look smart and fashionable. And that is just done right false.

    Some people may think permitting “sagging” is no big deal, but it speaks to what we expect from our young people. This would be an example where I feel white America holds out a double standard. “Sagging” is okay for young black boys, but looks downright absurd on white boys. Please. No one black, white, yellow, or green should be walking around with their hindparts exposed. And anyone who thinks it is okay for some and absurd for others is not part of the solution.

  45. livegreen

    I know you didn’t attack the person, and I didn’t say that you did. It’s still not nice and you can still disagree nicely. And I think you’re reading too much into something he didn’t say, as you often do.

    That said, and without guessing what Californio intends to mean, I agree with what you said earlier: “do you know where white people who “sag” go? COLLEGE. do you know where black people who “sag” go? JAIL.”

    We can go back and forth choosing where to agree and disagree on theories of causality, views of history, etc. We’ve reached ad nauseam on that front. We need to get back to your previous post about specifics, KIPP & solutions…

  46. Ralph

    I would also recommend that schools implement a dress code. This is one component of the KIPP schools that OUSD should be able to implement. Young people should be required to wear button-downs, ties, and jackets. I dare you to find me an individual dressed in their Sunday threads acting a fool.

  47. Patrick

    I agree, Ralph. In my day (way back when) dress was a matter of personal taste, and did not carry the connotations it seems to carry today. So, remove it! It has no place in schools.

    It seems to me that so many would like to grant 12 year olds the privileges adults have. Big mistake. Our job is to make sure they are able to live well as adults – not allow them to be perennial children.

  48. livegreen

    Some OUSD schools have an informal dress code, but usually not uniforms. I personally agree that it’s a good idea, but for some reason a lot of liberals don’t like them and pull out a bunch of studies that show they don’t do anything. Why? I don’t know.

    I also agree with Californio’s prior comments about vocational programs. The East Coast still has them, and I’ve heard schools in Contra Costa do too. I also understand that many school districts that did away with them did so because they were seen as tracking. Many wealthy liberals look down on blue collar work, and thought it was better to send ALL kids to college. So now there’s still tracking, just the choice is College or NADA.

    Looking back at Ralph’s list of possible solutions:

    1) longer school days (see KIPP*)
    **Kipp is 7:30 to 5pm. What do you think about those hours?
    How would Measure OO. M-Y or another source fund these?

    2) longer school year (KIPP)
    **Sept.2nd-June 11. (Open OUSD is Aug.25-June11. Note KIPP might not have been updated, as I think Sept.2 used to be the same for OUSD);

    Summer Aug.11-27. Is this optional or not? Are there any open OUSD summer?

    3) weekend hours (KIPP)
    **I notice KIPP closes early (for them) at 3:30pm on Wed. & Fri., but is open
    Sat.9-12 (a lot like France). Thoughts about benefits of this?

    4) contract among educators, parents, and students (KIPP)
    **Ralph, I don’t see this. Can you throw in a link, or give us some details?
    Teacher contracts are obviously important…

    5) more books at home
    **Good idea. Good old fashioned Book Reports. Anybody want to chime in about OUSD book reading and book reports?

    6) immersion programs (kids starting with a handicap need the intensive to reach their peers)
    **Ralph, please elaborate? Is this reinforcing academic lessons, like tutoring, or is it supplemental and if so, what?

    7) introduce students to college and college requirements early – 1st grade is not too soon – (parents from middle class are already doing this)
    more arts – theatre, symphony, museums
    **Agreed. Note I hear it can be costly and a bureaucratic feat for OUSD schools to do field trips. Any experience here?

    9) exposure to more than their neighborhood

    Any other thoughts?

  49. len raphael

    What’s the economics of charter schools here, and in particular how the heck do the KIPP schools pay for longer hours and smaller classes?

    Basic question: are Oakland charter schools non-union?

    The remark by a friend of mine with many years teaching at Lincoln, was that the American Indian Charter School gets it’s high scores from a high percentage of very high testing Chinatown kids whose parents like the school because it reminds them of the schools they attended as kids. (my friend thinks the intense discipline is ridiculous and stiffling, and my friend is no wimp in that regard)

    The Claremont newsletter was informative and somewhat depressing.

    Maybe Obama’s new education chief, Arne something, will force some changes on inner city schools. I’m glad to see he’s already pssng off some of O’s teacher union supporters.

    The huge backlash against tracking contributed greatly to the death of vocational schooling. No doubt it was convenient to save $ by shutting down costly shop classes.

    It’s not reasonable to expect Council Member JB to push on improving Claremont or Emerson unless the school board members ask her to do so. Based on that newsletter, maybe the new schoolboard member here, Jody _, will push for change.

    But in the big picture, what’s going on (or not) in OUSD that would allow Claremont to sink to that level before getting attention it now might be getting? Do you blame that on the state appointed administrator? the school board? or local parents, residents, and politicians?

    -len raphael

  50. livegreen

    Len, I agree, removing Shop/vocational classes were probably enhanced by a will to save money. Liberal and conservative interests probably overlapped…

    I’m not sure I want to speculate on why Claremont (or any others) foundered without knowing exactly what happened. Otherwise it’s just a guessing game, and we tend to disagree rather strongly here about a tangent (although it would make for a continued lively discussion).

    Instead I thin we should concentrate on the possible solutions. I’d like to know what Brewer has done right (or other successful public schools), compare it to KIPP (for example) and see what practically can be done.

    I do believe Oakland Charters are non-union. They’re funded in part by OUSD, and in part by private foundations (I think the funding for their national organization is probably different from local, but i’m not positive & you can check their website).

    Unfortunately OUSD does not have access to the same funding BUT some programs were M-Y funded (until the Mayor cut those for his street outreach programs…better to help kids AFTER they leave school, right?) and some other sources. If you go to M-Y website you can get more info on some of the School oriented programs, some of which have additional funding sources.

  51. Patrick

    What’s truly tragic here is the attempt to contrast Oakland schools against Oakland’s charter scools and other schools within the US. What we need to do is hold our schools to the standard set in most other 1st world (and 2nd and 3rd world) nations – and we fail miserably every time.

  52. Patrick

    Loved the link about KIPP – part of my early education was about constant repetition. Sixth grade, I’ll never forget: “Am, are, was, were, has been, have been, will be, shall have been, is being”. We said it so many times I couldn’t possibly forget it.

  53. livegreen

    Patrick, Specifically how do we do that? And where do we find the funds to do that, esp. after the Govenor and our Electorate cut another $4 billion+ from public schools?

  54. Ralph


    I am in complete agreement with KIPPS longer and weekend hours. First benefit, teachers have more time to spend with students who need than classroom work to get to grade level. Second benefit, longer hours minimizes the afterschool problem – young people running around unsupervised until parents get home. But it also gives teachers more time to work with students who are behind their middle class peers.

    Contract info was referenced in the No Excuses book. In the link I included earlier, there was a story of a teacher who removed a television from the student’s home. That is the type of action that this contract among teacher, parent, and student allows.

    More books at home: I don’t recall if I read this in No Excuses or Outliers (probably No Excuses and Outliers copied it). But in short white familes tend to have more books at home than black familes. There is a greater emphasis on reading. Anecdotally, I see some truth to this but I think there is probably a class component.

    Immersion/Intensives – to a certain degree I think young people need blocks of time devoted to one one subject. Maybe for 4 weeks in the after school periods, teachers spend 2 hrs a day / 5 days a week drilling them in English or introducing them to classic and contemporary lit. Another 4 week period could be a science intensive.

    It troubles me that today’s kids don’t drill on the times table. I work with an 11th grader who needed over 5 minutes to solve a Pythagorean theorem problem because he did not recognize 5 sqd + 12 sqd equalled a perfect square let alone the sqrt. He had to write out everything by hand and still had no idea that the result was a perfect square. So given how much time he needed to complete this problem, it is no wonder that passing the CAHSEE is a challenge. It just takes him too much time. I have another student, also a junior, who didn’t know his 9 table. It took 90 min but he finally got it using the finger method. I don’t care if it is rote or not we know what 9×9 is without resorting to folding fingers.

  55. peter

    Wow, there are a lot of ideas and opinions here, very few of them based in simple fact.
    First of all, every middle school in every state has problems with student behavior. One poster said he couldn’t imagine behaving like the current crop of middle school students—I assume the poster means he cannot remember being in middle school. When I was in middle school (at montera), I remember stealing eggs form the lucky’s across form claremont (yes, now it’s a trader joes) and throwing them at passing cars & “rival” students. We were definitely only the most recent in a long history of adolescent egg throwing. A 13 year–old’s conscience is only as developed as their immediate supervision is observant, which is why we caught the bus to claremont to do this—we knew there were dozens of shopkeepers etc who knew our moms & dads who would chase us etc., not just complain to the principal or others.
    Further, as to these “unruly” kids, they are every kid who does not have to worry about immediate reprisal for negative behavior, and many who do. Unless of course “unruly” is being used as a common code for african american, which we hear a lot in education circles today. However, in schools it is common to see a classroom taken over by students when the teacher is not prepared enough to do it themselves—many of you can remember such a situation in classrooms you sat in as well.
    As to the “social contract” of public schools that is unclear, it is in fact clear as day and written into state law. Every student must attend school until age 18. “Kicking a kid out” is not legal, reasonable, or even funny. Obviously, expulsions do take place on occasion, but even those students must continue to attend a community day (not continuation) school. The underlying assumption (I imagine) is that some students don’t want to learn, therefore they should be penalized/removed from a learning environment. Now let’s look in our own hearts and ask if there was ever a day in our own schooling where we “didn’t feel like learning” or thought a class was “boring.” Obviously, especially in secondary education, there are going to be behaviors that express dissatisfaction with the requirements of education, but to take away access to that education would literally be criminal. This same social contract is the one that makes it illegal to track students, so that is not plan b.
    As to changing the hours of a school, it is obviously not as simple as it sounds to type it, this is not exactly the first time people have discussed it. Let’s think—if your work hours were suddenly extended by 10 hours per week, what would you require from your boss? Well public, you are our bosses, and if our official work week is to extend by 25% per week, then I think that every school custodian to superintendent is going to want 25% more pay and that is going to some from you. That is going to be damn expensive! And just as it is a bit premature to plan for a trip to Bermuda when you have $30 in the bank, it is even more ridiculous to make demands on an entire segment of the economy before thinking of how it will work.
    As to charter schools, they do it with more money. KIPP was once a OUSD school, until they withdrew because they wanted access to the national KIPP treasure trove.
    Two last points:
    There seem to be two areas of concern at Claremont that are at loggerheads: test scores vs. electives. When test scores are low, the public requests more emphasis on the “basics” (see above for more memorization, etc) but then decries the lack of electives. Within our state mandated time/course guidelines, there is time for about one “extra” class per day in a kid’s schedule: which will it be? Remediation for kids (yes, we will see kids complain about it being “boring”) or an art class that will not address the fact the kid can’t read at grade level? Either way concerns are not addressed, and kids are underserved. (And no, you can’t just put the kids who test well in an art class if you believe in equity/state law).
    Lastly, it seems many are ignoring some of Oakland’s better schools. I was recently at a middle school choice fair at Chabot elementary and two of the best presentations were for Westlake and Brett Harte, neither of which is discussed here. And yet many of the things discussed (academic extended day, uniforms. high expectations for student behavior) are easily found there. (I do work at one of them, so here is a grain of salt as well).
    Sorry for the length of the post, but I felt like Isaac Newton overhearing people complaining that they couldn’t their houses to float in the air and demanding to know what the king would do about it!

  56. livegreen

    Peter, Re. changing school hours, nobody said it would be simple, and the issue of teachers full days was mentioned & taken into account. The alternative mentioned were supplemental funding, and the practical question asked was for possible sources : Measure OO, M-Y, alternative proposals? (No responses yet).

    BTW, these all imply after school programs…If teachers were to be used they’d have to be reimbursed, + for their own out-of-pocket expenses, for-which they are are often taken advantage of. On the other hand they get a big-perk summer break & good benefits…

    Re. Brett Harte, while their scores are better than Claremont, they’re still a full 100+ points below Brewer or Montera. Their PTA website DOES NOT list either an extended day OR a school uniform. The website says they get out at 3:25 and have a dress code, NOT a uniform. I think what Ralph was talking about was a full uniform…

    Sounds like Brett Harte needs to make a lot of progress too, but they’re API’s are already better than Claremont. One of the concerns mentioned about Claremont revolved around discipline, and that’s also an issue Ralph has brought up several times. Seems Brett Harte is serious about this. Here’s a link to Brett Harte’s discipline policy & procedures:


  57. len raphael

    P, most of what experts tell us about how to improve k-12 education for poor largely african american kids is useless not because its invalid but too expensive. even the chevrolet version of reform where class size was reduced as i recall, had mediocre results. (one theory that a bunch of poorly trained/inexperinced teachers were hired vs bigger class sizes with better teachers).

    my impression is that you could pick any of the “systems” or theories and get great results if you could come up with the money to implement fully, but none of them could make for poor administrators and bad teachers.

    to some extend we’re brainstorming here because the experts haven’t come up with something that both works and is affordable.

    Are teachers are Oakland charter schools under union contracts, pay scale etc?

    (btw, you reminded me that one of my kids who did attend CMS, was caught by OPD one Halloween eve egging cars. The cops made him scrub two cars.)

    -len raphael

  58. Ralph

    Some things about Brett Harte and OUSD in general.

    Can someone explain this A period and why is it only an option for a few?
    Why are some people exempt from Reading?

    What happened to language classes? (I believe this should begin in 1st grade but I suspect lack of funding is going to kill that idea.)

    Does anyone have the text of Measure OO. I can’t find a link. Inquiring minds want to know if we can use that money to fund in-school education programs that work.

    I like this idea of coring. It was part of what I had in mind with immersion/intensives but at 3 in the morning I could not find the right words to explain this aspect. One of my brothers has been working on project that would help teachers teach math and science together. When I was in school, there was some connection with English and History. As we were learning essay writing, our history teacher made sure we had ample oppty to practice. But I want to know more about how this program works.

    Still I don’t get why the students don’t have subject matter experts in the early years. My youngest brother had SME as early as 5th grade. My other brother and I had them in the 6th grade.

    I would probably move that athletic period to the non academic hours. Should be a free period at the end of the day that students should be able to meet with teachers to obtain add’l help as needed. Follow that with an athletics periods. Students can do either intra or inter-mural sports.

    Dress code is nice, but I like a uniform. Odd coincidence, a friend of mine just mentioned she is looking for school uniforms for her boys. She peeped me to French Toast which has very affordable uniforms.

    I do like that BH is serious about discipline. My school was serious about discipline. Back when we were kids we tried to avoid being devils not just because of the punishment at school but because of the punishment at home. Do parents discipline their children today?

    Not that we are ignoring the better schools. I personally have an interest in bringing the poor performers into the good performer fold. And I think lg has consistent asked what good practices can we replicate in the poor performers.

  59. peter

    Big idea #1:The funding for education is not there. No measures nor grants can hide the fact, even in after school programs. We have an extremely successful extended day program, but we can only serve 1/3 of the school. The after school program itself has its own grant writer, receives school funding, and partners with dozens of local non profits to make ends meet. We also receive OO money.
    This impacts the quality of teachers and administrators (in addition to buildings and materials): ineffective adults that do not support the children have to go, but there is no line of able people waiting for a chance. Many people who would be fantastic simply aren’t interested in a job where 10 years experience, a masters, and great performance reviews barely gets you $50,000. As a result, even more candidates who will end up letting kids dance on tables (like the above post!), or are not invested in the job.
    All of these things are affected by funding, which will only change if education receives much more (yes, much of that will have to be taxes!). In short, Len is right, “you could pick any of the “systems” or theories and get great results if you could come up with the money to implement fully,” but this is not currently affordable.

    Big idea #2: Part of the problem is that we don’t know what we want from schools. We want schools to offer great engaging electives that will enrich their lives, but we want them to make measurable progress on a big test once a year that tests 5 subjects (no electives). We want schools to be accountable, but we judge them on a test that only truly measure’s parent education level. We want kids to be “college ready” upon high school graduation, but we want to rid schools of “disruptive” students. These are all mutually exclusive. Now we are facing a false choice between “failing” and “succeeding” schools.

    Big idea #3 Everything is guided by state law & educational code, and is most paid for with state money. The length of the day, the size of classes, the classes taught, what students wear to school, these are all things the public has a great interest in, but schools do not have total authority over them. “A” period is not available to everyone because (1) there’s not enough money for it and (2) you cannot compel a family to attend more than a certain amount of school. You cannot have after school PE because every student must have access to it in the regular school day (along with math, science, english, and social studies). You cannot have mandatory school uniforms because it is against state educational law (you can have an extremely serious dress code as long as no one complains but the students, however). All the above examples have been successfully nuanced by individual schools or districts at times, but lack of “success” on APIs etc invites closer scrutiny, and NCLB and state take-overs make sure everyone is looking. Due to #2 above, all these issues are systemic and structural concepts that what we need to look at to improve schools, but the change needs to come at the top level first, until then our solutions will be piece-meal or half-complete.

    It is fantastic to hear education supporters discuss OUSD and look for ways to improve it. The ideas above indicate where I (and many educators) think change must start. In the meantime, as we work slowly to these goals, come by a school and see all the good things going on (its fun!) and ask how you can help!

  60. livegreen

    Big Idea #1: There are two issues here, one is funding for teachers, the other is funding for schools:
    A) Teachers: A quick search shows Oakland is among the lowest paying in the Bay Area, with starting about $40,000, going up to about $70,000. Link:
    Bay Area:

    Broader search: http://www.sacbee.com/1098/story/995141.html

    Questions: Do teachers HAVE to have a masters to be teachers here? (Obviously it’s more desirable). & What’s the ratio of Oakland teachers with masters to no masters?

    Note: I simply don’t think this salary range is so bad. It’s solidly middle class. We have several school teachers in our area, a solid middle class area, of Oakland.
    I also don’t think it’s a lot, but I do think it’s decent.

    B) Administrators: What’s their pay?

    C) Budget for OUSD & other school districts: I’d like a little insight here. On the one hand I think CA is treating it’s school districts and education in general very very unfairly. On the other hand I’m under the impression that it’s often inefficient, as are many bureaucracies (& might have antiquated systems).

    Re. the State’s poor funding of Schools, it passes (we pass) bonds taxing our progeny for todays public construction costs, along with all other types of bonds, without batting an eyelash. CA pays beyond federally mandated requirements for medicare and medicaid. CA pays stellar State employee benefits, and hey, the salaries are good too. I’m betting the State is similar to what V has documented for City Workers: they get both automatic raises through the salary schedule AND annual COLA increases (just a guess, I admit I could be wrong).

    Yet the FIRST programs to be cut, and to be cut THE MOST, are in Education.
    I find this unacceptable. And as much as I might say that I think school teachers salaries are solidly middle class, with great benefits, I also find it amazing that other City & State workers, and other state programs, aren’t subject to the same or greater cuts.

    We’ve reached a point in this Country where everyone is behaving selfishly, looking at only their own pocketbook and saying “I’m definitely not giving up anything”. And the only one left to take it from is those who don’t have a vote: our kids.

    That being said, schools like Brewer have improved even in this situation, so there must be a way to do it with the same salary constraints…

    I’m still thinking about Big Ideas #2 & #3. Over to you guys and your thoughts…

  61. livegreen

    To 2nd Ralph’s question, yeah, what is Period A? & What are minimum days?
    Both on BH’s Bell Schedule:

    I do see BH has foreign languages. But Elementary school’s seem to have done away with them, when it’s the best time to start learning one…

    Ralph, what’s “coring”? Core teaching?

    Measure OO is Kids First, the increase to the minimum going to kids programs that was recently passed and the City Counsel has been trying to get reduced (V has written about too). Link: http://www.ofcy.org/

  62. Ralph

    i am not a fan of the manner in which we fund education in this country. Children should not be standing on the street corner begging for money to buy athletic uniforms. Field trips…there is no reason on god’s green earth why children should be denied field trips.

    For clarification on the athletics, I am not advocating an after school in the sense that it is beyond the school day. I am basically asking that an hour be added to the day. Through 2:15 / 2:30 is the academic day. Followed by 45 min activity and then an athletics period. 4pm dismissal. I recommend an end of day program for MS thru HS because I don’t see the need for both a gym class and interscholastic athletics.

    Bust the union. Private and charter school teachers work for less than public school teachers and are required to do some of the activities described in earlier posts all for lower pay. If you can’t compel students to stay for longer days then it seems to me that the state can solve that problem by mandating longer days. I would extend the day until 4 on the back-end – use this time for additional instruction, one-one, study hall, academic enrichment etc.

    But I am willing to argue in favor of higher (above current levels) public school pay – call it my combat pay differential for having to deal with some students who we all know are going to act a fool. Of course, if we kicked the future Santa Rita population out of the schools and teachers just had to teach then maybe we would not need the differential.

    Uniforms are against state law, whose boneheaded idea was that? So no uniform, dress code boys dress slacks, buttondowns, and tie; girls dress slacks, knee length skirts or dresses, no midriff showing clothes, no low cut blouses etc.

    Maybe I am naive, but it seems to me that if you teach a child to learn and instill in him a love to learn he will acquire the thinking skills needed to pass/do well on state mandated performance test. Private schools manage to send students to college without all of this mandatory testing bs. So it seems to come back to family. Private school parents care deeply about education and ensure that their children are exposed to academic enrichment activities. Public school parents care too; unfortunately, the multiple progeny of the parents either who don’t care or lack the ability to instill discipline and respect in their children seem to screw up the academic atmosphere for the rest and consume a disproportionate share of resources.

  63. Ralph

    Coring is a practice at BH. I am not going to be able to explain this as well as they do on the BH site (think it was in the handbook). But i think classes stay together for English and History. Not sure how it all works.

    The following is example of 1st grade Social Studies teaching approach I could not explain earlier: thematic approach to teaching social studies that integrates foreign language, literature, mathmatics, and map skills to develop an awareness of values and attitudes.

    Here is an example of what I like for fourth grade math:
    The fourth grade continues to use the “Everyday Math” program to observe, describe, and solve problems using real-life experiences.

    The fourth grade takes a year-long “World Tour,” linking mathematics to geography. Students realize the usefulness of mathematics while learning facts about countries around the world. They also use a supplemental math series which reinforces basic math skills. Mathematics is part of the ongoing classroom routine and thinking with mathematics becomes as natural as thinking with language. Parents participate in this program through Home Links, short activities that are sent home on a regular basis.

  64. Deckin

    Having read through the voluminous comments, it’s clear that people care deeply about the state of our schools, but, it’s kind of depressing to see average citizens sounding like pale immitations of educratic policy wonks. Coring? All of the solutions offered so far have been workshopped to death, piloted to death, small scale hopeful results-ed to death. And none have worked nor will they ever work, until people give up on the liberal version of creationism. It amounts to a cluster of romantic theses that are often heard: Every child can grow up to be whatever it is they want to be; that all children have an equal capacity to learn; that all children can perform at grade level; that all children ought to go to college. Not only all are all of these manifestly false, they are positively killing our school systems. I wish they weren’t false, and I wish reality were other than it is. But thinking that something is the case because it ought to be the case is a dangerous fallacy.

    There are truths that are not noble, but are truths, and until we stop whistling past graveyards and acknowledge them, we’ll be having these endless futile wonkish debates forever while kids rot in our schools.

    1. The ability of children to perform any task, cognitive or otherwise varies and exhibits a normal distribution. This can’t be said in polite company, but everyone who isn’t in the grips of a dogma knows it’s true–and no reality based view of the world can deny it. I’m sorry, but half the children are below average, and if school is meant to impart anything substantive at all, it simply can’t be expected that all children will perform at grade level. Either the grade levels will mean something (i.e., they will by definition exclude some levels of performance and hence some children), or they will mean nothing and will be a substitute for one’s calendar age. You cannot have both. I’m sorry, Algebra II, if rigorous, is simply beyond a large (perhaps the majority) chunk of the population. Ask anyone who’s actually tried to teach math or science. To require it of all high school students is an invitation to despair and dysfunction.
    2. Our society depends, essentially, on how well it educates and challenges the very brightest students. We spend multiples more on educating children children of below average cognitive abilities than we do on the brightest. Yet it’s the brightest who will have to develop future technologies and the like if the US is to remain a leader in the world. I know it’s hatespeech to say this, but not everyone contributes as much to human flourishing and progress as everyone else. Steve Jobs has done more for humanity than I ever could–that’s life. But unless we spend more time and resources where it will do the most good for all with the future scientists, developers, and innovators, we’ll all pay in the long run. Of course we should open educational opportunities to all, as a matter of both justice and prudence. But we should realize that thinking is a skill and a talent, and it’s no wiser to spend a fortune on trying to cram Trigonometry and Conic Sections into someone who’ll never really grasp it, much less ever use it, than it is to send every child to basketball camp.

    So practically, what should we do? Tracking, Entrance Exams and lose this ridiculous expectation that every child should go to college. How about an academic and competitive High School in the district? How about Feeder Schools for that? That would be a good first start.

  65. len raphael

    how is that places as different as fresno and nyc have GATE (aka gifted talented) elementary schools but oakland does not? in fresno, my niece was just telling me the gate schools are more racially and economically diverse than neighborhood schools.


  66. Ralph

    len, are you trying to achieve a racially and economically diverse school or do you want a school with smart kids. Not that a school with a diverse student body can’t be full of bright and gifted students. I just want to make sure I understand where you are going.

    In any event, I believe there are multiple ways of implementing a GATE program. I think some districts identify schools (even then it is not the entire school) and some do it by selecting students from schools. Not sure how Oakland does it but I think it essentially comes down to making 5% of the students at each elem eligible.

    To Deckin’s point this is where I take issue. I am using my scarce resources to provide a program to which some are academically not suited. That is just not smart.

  67. Deckin

    I’m not sure what a GATE program is, in any detail, but yea, why doesn’t Oakland have academic schools where admission is based on exams? San Francisco has been doing it for about 100 years with Lowell, why can’t Oakland? Per Ralph’s proposal that 5% of each elementary school should be eligible, for some rigorous Middle Schools, I think that’s misguided, for the same reason that UC’s new admissions policy to the same effect (aka the Asian Exclusion Act) is misguided. If the school is to be truly rigorous and not just a cruel joke (as so much of our liberal faith based system is), then all students need to meet the same standards. There’s no a priori reason why the top 5% at each school would all meet any rigorous standard, and there’s a ton of evidence that they won’t. Again, we need to face facts. The top 5% at Thornhill will be leaps and bounds ahead of the top 5% at (pick your favorite). Putting them in the same school and expecting magic to happen is just yet more faith based thinking. What you’ll get (what we already see in virtually all the cases where this is done) is voluntary segregation and hostilitiy.

  68. Ralph

    Deckin, you MISREAD my post. I neither proposed nor advocate that 5% of all students should be eligible. It is how OUSD implemented GATE. Per OUSD, the GATE (gifted and talented) Program is open to 5% of the students at each school. As noted in the subsequent paragraph in that same post, I am of the mindset that it should be the top 5% of the OUSD students irrespective of school; however, that approach did not result in a diverse enough body for OUSD.

    From what I know, GATE is a national program used in something like 25 states. Note, the 5% is based on GATE estimation that about 5% of the students fall in this gifted population.

  69. Patrick

    The city school district in which I went to high school (late 70s, early 80s) offered a RRR + technical/job training school for those students that did not excel in standard classes for whatever reason. My best friend during HS elected to enroll in that school – because he always felt “stupid” in the regular high school. He certainly was not stupid – he just didn’t respond to the standard teaching methods of the day. And, he owns a plumbing business now with about 50 employees – he’s doing much better than me and my great SAT score ever did.

  70. Ralph

    Deckin, my bad, I see I omitted part of a sentence in my initial post re: GATE. To Deckin’s point here is where I take exception with OUSD. OUSD is using scarce resources to provide an education program to people who are academically not suited.

    Patrick, I am all for vo-tech. The educators in my social circle agree that college is not for everyone. (And as it is, I think only 25 – 30% of the people in this country over the age of 25 have a college degree.) Some people would probably do very well w/a vo-tech educ. But to avoid the race / low income tracking problems from the past, we probably need to level the playing field in the early yrs.

    For those students who start off disadvantaged get them to grade level or at least reasonably close. By eighth grade, teachers should have a fairly good idea which students are and are not college material. I think the problem the old system poor and minority students never got a fair shot at a good education so they were always tracked which led to its dismantling. Vo-tech education is not inherently bad and could be quite useful if used appropriately.

  71. grrljock

    Some additional info on KIPP, to give more context:
    - KIPP teachers are non-union. They are paid following the pay scale of the district each KIPP school is in (e.g., KIPP schools in Houston follow Houston Independent School District pay scale) and get additional pay for the additional hours they work (longer weekdays and Saturday schools).

    - As noted in the City Journal article link given before, most KIPP teachers are TFA alums, so mostly young and childless. These 2 factors help, given the punishing school schedule. Anecdotally (i.e., I can’t speak for overall KIPP), there’s been more interest at KIPP schools in allowing for more flexibility in this schedule to reduce teacher and staff burnout and turnover.

    - KIPP students are a self-selecting population, as their parents have to make the choice to want to attend the school (student entrance is by lottery). This choice is reinforced by the contract that’s signed by the student and parent(s). In most KIPP schools, teachers make home visits to prospective students for the contract signing. And yes, home visits during school years also happen.

    - The KIPP Foundation gets funding from private sources (Gates, Walton Family)–and I have no clue as to what strings are attached to those monies. However, each school also raises money individually to fund things such as computer labs, end-of-year school trips, etc. Since I don’t know how school districts are usually structured, can some of the funding difference btw KIPP and regular public schools be attributable to difference in overhead? I.e., more actual money reaches KIPP students + staff because there is fewer layers of bureaucracy vs regular public schools? Anyone?

  72. californio

    Just back from three days camping, and I see this thread is still hot.

    A few observations, at the risk of trying our dear Miss Violette Smoothe’s patience:

    1) “Education” on the ground always seems different from education as discussed and policied and comitteed and blogged. The 13-year old’s impression of his or her middle school has nothing to do with test scores and everything to do with who friended whom and why is that kid copying. The administrator’s impression of middle school has everything to do with test scores and ADA funding and nothing to do with who stole whose iPod and why can’t that substitute control the class better. In short, there’s a massive disconnect. When we talk about “education,” we’re talking about difference things altogether. Personally, I could care less what average test scores Claremont has. Good test scores do not a good student make, and I say this as a person who for 11 years taught college English in California’s #1 CC district, Foothill-DeAnza, with lily-white feeder schools, affluent and “educated” households, and more money than you could shake a stick at. What counts is curiosity, depth of experience, love of language, and so forth, none of which can be tested.

    A couple of anecdotes from these fabulous schools. I mentioned Picasso to a class, then understood the students’ blank look and asked who Picasso was. One kid raised his hand and replied, “Wasn’t that the guy who cut his ear off?” In a similar vein, I once praised a student’s short sentences by comparing the writing, optimistically, to Hemingway. Again, the blank look. Not one person in 25 or so, all from these ideal feeder schools, had ever heard of, let alone read, Hemingway. Almost all white, medium-to-high testers, good income, good families. Not those graffiti-spraying, iPod stealing monsters who have litters of born-to-sag rappers at age 14. There are plenty of Silicon Valley executives who have dull, dull kids, trust me. Personally I liked reading what the smiling black lady from East Menlo had to say about the bullet holes in her front door. I doubt her test scores were so great. Or that she had ever read Hemingway, for that matter.

    2) An excellent source of information on the various aspects of Oakland education (including entries from students) is Katy Murphy’s blog at the Inside Bay Area site/Oakland Tribune. She knows the details. Go to http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/

    3) I confess to a mistake I made: Claremont actually does have art classes, as well as a lot of other electives, but no foreign language classes this year. (Maybe next?) Katy would know more about this than I.

  73. Deckin


    1. Good test scores do not a good student make. Who ever made that claim? Try the converse: Good students do good test scores make. Do you want to dispute that one? I have 17 years experience teaching at the college/university level (including a stint at De Anza–more on that below) and I have hundreds of grade sheets, along with letters of former students currently with Ph.D.s and other higher degrees that confirms the claim that way around. Tests aren’t in the business of making students better, they’re in the business of sorting those that have learned and can think from those less able.

    2. You experience at either Foothill or De Anza was definitely not mine. I found a significant percentage of genuinely bright students with ample reserves of cognitive capacity. To be sure, there are probably lacunae in their knowledge bases. But in terms of raw, native, problem solving ability, I’d put the brightest there on a par with the best students this country produces, period. And the data backs that claim up. They go on to graduate from the likes of Berkeley et al with higher GPAs than do those admitted as freshman. Before one assails the inability of a college freshman to locate Hemmingway (embarrassing, no doubt) one ought to check to see if they (and oneself) are equally incompetent at Linear Algebra. We all have our own bailiwicks and it’s a sign of smallness to assume that any one of them is the mark of the educated.

  74. Pondoora

    I’m coming in late, but this will provide some additional information.

    Re Len’s question: Are teachers are Oakland charter schools under union contracts, pay scale etc?
    A: None of those teachers belong to a teachers union, but some definitely wish they did.

    Re KIPP: One factor for their success is a higher parent education level (1=not high school graduate, 5=graduate school). From 2008 CDE data, the Oakland KIPP school was third from the charter middle school top, at 3.27 (the highest charter PEL was 3.63). In comparison, the PEL’s for the two middle schools in the same neighborhood were 2.20 and 2.15 (Cole & West Oakland Middle). The parent education level at KIPP rivals Montera (PEL = 3.37) which has an API of 794. KIPP’s API was 760. BTW, KIPP had 3% students w/disabilities. The two other middle schools in the same neighborhood had 4% and 11%.

    EXTRAS: Some, but not all, of the extra funding charters get can be discovered by looking at 990’s. For instance, the 2006 990 for KIPP Bay Area shows that the Oakland KIPP school received an extra $138,117, about enough to pay for the salary and benefits of at least two teachers for that year. The school served ~175 kids.

    The Rogers Foundation gave Lighthouse Community Charter School $50,000 in 2006, 2005, and 2004, and $250,000 in 2003. In 2006, they gave $65,000 to Aspire Public Schools (a Charter Management Organization) for Millsmont. Other Oakland charter school direct beneficiaries in 2006 were the EC Reems Academy of Technology and Arts ($10,000), Envision Academy ($10,000), Oakland KIPP Bridge College Prep ($20,000), Oakland School for the Arts ($10,000), and Oasis High School ($10,000).

    In 2007, the Walton Family Foundation donated $230,000 EACH to four charter schools in Oakland. Who knows how it was spent, but if it was spent on students for American Indian Public High School it meant an additional $2300/pupil, and for Oakland Charter High it meant an additional $7667/pupil. A county approved charter located in Oakland (Envision) also received $230,000 for 113 kids, and a start-up that apparently never made it through initial development (Oakland Health Science Academy) received $230,000, too.

    Those are just a few of the philanthropic organizations which give discreet gifts to charter schools, providing them with a considerable competitive edge.

    Oakland School of the Arts has received a lot of extra money (called direct public support on the 990’s at http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/990search.php):

    $1,025,787 in 2002 (102 students)
    $1,088,851 in 2003 (176 students)
    $1,432,148 in 2004 (272 students)
    $1,032,828 in 2005 (421 students)
    $10,978,807 in 2006 (285 students)

    Re the American Indian Public Charter School: Learn how the extreme demographic engineering at AIPCS has contributed to a shift in test scores over the years at http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2009/05/dear-mr-finn.html

  75. len raphael


    Do charter school teachers get comparable retirement and medical benefits to public school teachers?

    when you say the grants from foundations and contribs from the public are “additional”, do you mean in addition to the 8k ?/student that the state gives the school district for each student?

    Never clear to me whether that 8k or so amount went directly to local schools minus a cut to OUSD HQ for admin. And how much went to gross wages vs benefits, vs facilities, vs books/equipment. Isn’t there also about 1k/year of fed money and more to certain schools?

    There would be public tax return info for fund raising local school groups for say Monterra or Hillcrest? But if they raised more than 200/kid for say 400 kids would be surprised. 80k

    -len raphael

  76. Deckin


    I wonder whether you and Mr. Flinn (at the link you provided about changing demographics at AI) are fully aware of the argument you’re making. If one looks at the the latest API data, one gets a more nuanced view of the changing demographics at AI.

    Looking at the 2006 Socionomic Disadvantage Base, we find that of the economically disadvantaged students, a higher percentage of Asian students were economically disadvantaged than African American students (36 v. 29%). So the changes you decry have not been economic ones, but ethnic ones. And yet, you are correct in noting an ethnic effect. Asian students outperform African American students at AI by a rather healthy 15% or so.

    So your argument concedes that poverty has little to do with the A-B gap (finally rid of the ubiquitous ‘B-W’ gap). Mr. Finn thinks it’s cultural, but what, prey tell causes that, and what does one do about it? Is that the path you want to be one? How quickly we’re back at the Platonic solution of taking African American children away from their parents and families to be raised predominantly by self sacrificing, altruistic state workers. The word ‘patronizing’ is so rarely used this closely to its etymological roots.

  77. Pondoora

    Len: I checked w/someone who is quite knowledgeable. Here are his answers to your questions. Sorry it’s taken so long.

    He says:

    “1. The benefits for a charter as far as I know are up to each charter. Retirement is another thing that I don’t have any detailed knowledge. However, I believe each charter is retired to participate in either the teacher retirement system, STIRS or the classified retirement system PERS. I don’t know if certificate teachers can be placed in PERS. Difficult with some charters is that they do not keep up with their required payments into the required retirement system and the charter goes belly up and the teachers and classified then are stuck. I assume that in the future there will be legislation to guarantee retirement in cases where a charter does not fulfill is financial obligation toward retirement.

    2/3. Charter school funding and district funding are different. Charter schools can be directly funded or their funding can filter through the chartering school district. The first type is called a dependent charter and the second type an independent charter. Both types can buy services from the chartering district say cafeteria or special education services. I have not looked up ADA for Oakland so I don’t know that figure. I also don’t know what adding in categorical state and federal monies would make that figure for the whole district. Keep in mind that including state and federal gives an average figure for the district and would not be exact for a given school. I don’t know much about charter school finances except that both dependent and independent charters have to pay for the oversight provided by the chartering authority. I think that figure off the top of charter income is 2-3 percent. The difference being if the district provides
    housing for the charter the percentage is the higher figure. Seems that if the district provides housing they also get to charge rent. From what I have seen in Oakland that 2-3 percent figure is too low to provide oversight of over 30 schools. I am sure that charter schools see it as too high.”

    Now, as for tax returns. I’ve been able to look up some foundations and non-profits at http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/990search.php?a=a

    You can try to find PTA records there. They all have a non-profit number.

    I do realize that every school has an assortment of extras which come their way. Some schools get Title I, and other state or federal categorical funding (meaning it can only be used for specific things). Some schools win grants, or are the beneficiaries of extremely lucrative PTA fund raising.

    But low-income schools don’t have thousands of dollars coming from PTA’s because they don’t even have a PTA, or it is a very weak one (for instance only 5% of the families joining). Those schools also don’t have parents to do grant-writing, nor many staff members who can do that time consuming job.

    This places those particular traditional public schools in a situation where they can’t compete with that well-supplemented charter school on the next block (even though their demographics are similar), because of the extra money pro-charter billionaires have given to the school’s CMO (charter management organization), or the dollars that local pro-charter philanthropists have given, or the other funding that a celebrity politician has generated.

    For the past several years, wealthy, pro-charter corporate forces have been donating heavily to charter schools to ensure they have a significant competitive edge, with the goal of drawing away attendance from urban public school districts.

    These people are investing in charter schools, and the whole network of charter school promotional and support organizations, because they badly want them to succeed. Just start watching, and you’ll see how much charter school propaganda is being produced. The regular public schools don’t have the money to spend on glossy brochures, fancy websites, or ad space on buses and billboards and internet sites.

    Make no mistake, these people abhor the public school system and would like to see all the traditional public schools in urban areas completely dead. Once that is done, the unions for teachers and classified employees will be gone, expenses will be cut, and there will be a set of private managers in charge who can do whatever they want, with about as much accountability to the public as we’ve seen in the banking/investment system in the recent months.

    Of course, I believe, after they kill off the public schools in all the cities, they’ll stop giving goodies to the charters and put them on a crash diet. They won’t need to nurse them along anymore.

    The best resource to learn about all of this is Jim Horn, at http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/

    Deckin: I do not propose that state workers raise poor African American kids. I DO propose that there is no simple cause or solution to the achievement gap, and we are stupid to think we can make it go away by calling urban public schools, and their teachers, failures because they aren’t on track with eliminating our country’s social class differences by 2014.

    One of the wisest things I ever heard someone say is that it will take as long for this country to fully undo the damage to families caused by slavery as we spent on developing and maintaining that institution for hundreds of years. And let’s not forget about the now perpetual high unemployment for African Americans who, decades ago, had flocked to urban settings for the jobs, but then found themselves stranded when US manufacturing dried up. This damaged families, too. Elijah Anderson writes about the subculture which perfectly logically developed because of this deprivation in “Code of the Street.” I highly recommend it.

    Contrast that history with the one of immigrants from Confucian-based Asian cultures. This particular group is lucky to have a set of values which are highly socially advantageous for school success. The values have been built upon and reinforced for the past 3000 years and link a strong family structure and respect for learning to the honoring of one’s parents by doing well in school.

    So as for the cause of the achievement gap being poverty or culture, it looks to me like it’s a mix. In these conversations I always refer people to the work of Richard Rothstein, especially “Class and Schools.” If you don’t want to buy the book, a lot of his articles are online. I hope you check him out.

  78. Deckin


    One of the wisest things I ever heard someone say is that it will take as long for this country to fully undo the damage to families caused by slavery as we spent on developing and maintaining that institution for hundreds of years.

    A popular theory, no doubt, but notice how it does nothing to address the achievement gap between Latinos and Asians and Whites. Also, what about the achievement gap between Asians and Whites? That is persistent and shows up even more strongly if SES is controlled for? Confucianism superior to European culture?

    Also, if one is going to go the culture gambit, then it’s incumbent on one to take it all the way. African American culture has strong roots in West African culture. We’re constantly being told that with respect to things like music and language, but rarely does anyone make the point about any other cultural item. But indeed, many of the same social patterns one sees in the African American community (women doing a large preponderance of the productive work, men comparatively more idle, a rather ‘fluid’ sense of time and ‘lack of fit’ with other accoutrements of industrialized cultures) one sees in West Africa–I’ve seen it with my own eyes. If you want another authority on this, read Obama’s first book for exactly the same conclusion. Could those thing have anything to do with the achievement gap?

    Contrast that history with the one of immigrants from Confucian-based Asian cultures. This particular group is lucky to have a set of values which are highly socially advantageous for school success. The values have been built upon and reinforced for the past 3000 years and link a strong family structure and respect for learning to the honoring of one’s parents by doing well in school.

    So Confucian culture just dropped on Asians’ laps from above? They are ‘lucky’ to have a set of values? Is that how you think cultures arise?

  79. VivekB

    Using a “me-too” approach and setting your sights to be ‘just as good as Asian cultures’, even if it takes hundreds of years to do so, is not effective. Because those of us from Asian cultures will not be standing still. We will continue to press onward & upward and we will never rest nor turn our brains off nor …, and those looking just to catch up never actually will.

    Better to look at the unique strengths of the culture, there’s always something, and figure out how to build upon that to succeed. Using a different paradigm allows you to select a framework that works for you instead of one that has been proven to work against you. Perhaps its’ a different type of school environment, perhaps it’s a different type of living arrangement, i have no idea, i’m part of the elite asian class :-) (joking!)

  80. livegreen

    Deckin, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I know African American men who are hard working as the rest of us. There are as many poor caucasians, indians, and chinese in the world as there are africans or african americans. It doesn’t make them culturally inferior as you purport african and african american men to be.

    There’s a significant amount of african americans who achieved high education standards because they or their parents “pulled themselves up by the bootstraps”. There’s a large # of those who were on their way up when blue collar work vanished from this country. That would have benefited a whole generation, just as it did others of any race, when those opportunities evaporated. (I would remind you that they only achieved the full right to vote, and the representation that comes with it, in the 1960′s).

    This carries over to the culture and the schools. (Which came first, the reality that pop-culture is based on, or the pop-culture that reality is based on?). In the meantime there are hard working school programs that benefit everyone, no matter ones race. I know because I have seen it.

    The issue is not only history and explaining the differences. It is the reality and working hard with everyone to make sure we succeed communally, no matter history, no matter our historical and cultural differences, and no matter our achievement gaps. Because if one of us doesn’t succeed, none of us succeeds.

    Stop looking only at the intellectual reasons for differences (arguing back and forth, back and forth, ad hominem). Start looking for, practicing, and living the solutions!

  81. Ralph

    As an investor, there is absolutely no good reason for a philanthropy to give money to a public school. Because charter schools self select, there is an increased chance you have greater parental involvement relative to your average urban school. As parental involvement is the biggest factor in a child’s success, it just makes financial sense to give to a charter school. I don’t know if charter donors have as their mission the eradication of public schools but financially it makes absolutely no sense.

    And someone please correct me if I am wrong…but the 15th amendment gave Afr-Am males the right to vote. Following reconstruction, Southern whites slowly started dismantling these rights. The CRA of 64 eliminated the Jim Crow era restrictions and gave the franchise to all. Thus, it is not entirely accurate to say that they achieved the full right to vote and the representation that comes with it in the 1960s. (Of course, the residents of DC are still waiting.)

    PS: I am not sure if it is clear but I don’t think anyone is arguing african-americans as being culturally inferior. Generally, in the discussion of education and race the word culture is used to described the value ascribed to education. Does the community / family place a high value?

  82. livegreen

    Ralph, Re. charter schools, I understand your point. Furthermore in a Charter an investor/donor has an ability to affect the system, or at least know if the program directors are affecting the system, vs. entrenched, established systems in Public Schools (PS) that are mostly not working.

    However what happens when there are programs at a PS that ARE working, or showing the potential to work? Since this goes against an Inv/Donor’s own beliefs, will they ignore the program entirely, examine it only enough to look for flaws, or for other causes for improvement outside the program?

    Or instead will the Inv/Donor look beyond these pre-conceived notions and give the program at least a chance?

    Good programs do exist such as Girls, Inc. These started small and someone gave them a chance, looked for the positives instead of just the negatives, and worked with the program to both address the negatives and make it better. They didn’t sit on the side lines and criticize it.

    And though it’s smaller I recently found out about the program Brewer has called Brothers on the Rise (BOTR) which has been an important factor in making this school better. I understand the program was instituted as a way of addressing issues with the students (primarily boys) who were acting out in class and disrupting the learning environment for everyone.

    Rather than just putting the kids in detention the program works with the boys on their issues, helps teach them respect for others (including women), helps them better understand their environment, share their emotions (instead of bottling them up and then acting out, potentially violently) and act respectfully towards other people. By doing all this it helps create a positive peer pressure (and not just at Brewer, but also in their family and neighborhood).

    Which, in turn, helps them better achieve their own dreams, and helps the school improve the learning environment for everyone.

    I decided to check out the program a little more and stopped in on their completion ceremony at Brewer. I spoke to a few of the parents (a few dads were there, but mostly moms) and asked what they thought about the program. The ones I spoke to said their boys’ attitudes & confidence had improved, that they listened better to them (one mom told me it helped to have an outside positive male influence), and that their grades had improved.

    A lot more was said by the students themselves (there were a whole series of Q&A sessions and skits that the kids enacted or even wrote & directed). For sure many of them had challenges articulating and expressing themselves. But they were visibly working hard and trying. And many others WERE doing well, speaking on a stage as if they’d been doing it for a long time (and better than I could).

    Check out their website at http://www.brothersontherise.org

    Do give programs like this a chance. Don’t only look for reasons that it’s something else. Brewer seems to think they’re important for the school, they’ve had the experience both with the program, and at making big improvements school wide. They must be doing something right.

    What’s more such programs can be worked with, like a charter school, but within a larger public school where more kids can be positively affected…

  83. Deckin


    I wasn’t the one who invoked a cultural explanation for anything, much less argued that African culture is inferior. That inference, though, does seem a natural conclusion to Pondoora’s comments and links regarding the ‘luck’ of those born into a Confucian culture. So maybe you want to take it up with them.

    Of course, of course, we all know hardworking and high achieving people of all backgrounds, races, and cultural backgrounds. Who’s disputing that? But are you denying the achievement gap which is the subtext of this whole debate? Have you seen the statistics? Do you really want me to go through them? Denying them is, I’m very sorry, just not a tenable position in any reality based world view.

    The argument we’re having is over what can be done about the truly awful facts (and they are awful–talk to anyone in education who’s still honest). And that lead to the question of what causes these facts since ignoring causes is a sure way of never remedying things. So, rather than whistle past the graveyard and ‘living the solution’ (whatever that is–if teaching students of all backgrounds to the absolute best of my abilities counts, then I’m already doing it), I don’t think it’s an idle intellectual exercise to think long and hard about causes and remedies. Pretending there’s no problem is the surest way to maintain the status quo.

  84. livegreen

    Who’s denying the achievement gaps? My point is we need to do good things for all students, regardless of the achievement gaps, but esp. concentrate on making progress for all students.

    Indeed it sounds like you already are. And as you can see I am trying too.

    But it doesn’t mean we put all our efforts on hold while we’re sorting out where we agree and disagree (going back and forth like we’re recreating a bureaucracy and talking points). We could do this FOREVER and never arrive anywhere.

    So in the meantime let’s talk about programs that can make a difference, like Girls Inc., Brothers on the Rise, and others you might know about. Then let’s discuss how to get involved with them, how to improve them, and how to grow them.

    And institute real, meaningful change. What do you think about these programs, these ideas for improvement, and what ideas do you have to carry the improvements (& discussion) forwards?

  85. Ralph

    livegreen, i would think that the disincentive to invest at public schools is higher than the incentive to invest. By this I mean that any school funded program is subject to the whims and fancies of the administration. I would want some type of assurances that the program won’t be cut for x number of years before I committed to it. (I assume that these programs work in part because parents actually care. I have little faith that public schools can implement any successful program without parent commitment.)

    I am of the mindset that we provide education programs to those who will make the most use of them, but I know in socialist oakland that idea will not fly. We could improve the test scores and graduation rate overnight by shipping the least fit to the island of misfit toys.

    Optimistically, I hope that with parental involvement, remedial classes for first graders who come to school ill-prepared to handle the rigors of a ps education, and an early introduction to college and careers we could change the culture of some people.

    Finally, for any good Girls, Inc may do it is overshadowed by the fact that their executives and board are the puppetmasters behind Double OO.

  86. Deckin


    Since you asked, here’s a completely random short list of things that would help, which is not to say they are politically feasible.

    1. De-unionize teaching. Faculty unions, from close personal experience, are quite frequently positive impairments to learning and progress. They stifle the removal of dead wood faculty (and believe me, they are everywhere) and institute an allegiance to the welfare of the faculty at the expense of students.

    2. Drop the Multi-Culti bullshit that is infecting virtually every corner of education and will soon infect the few areas so far unblemished. Stop pretending that ‘Math for Social Justice’ and its ilk are anything but what they are: Indoctrination programs that care nothing for getting students to really master math, science, or what have you. To that end, let’s get rid of the political hacks and social justice mavens masquerading as teachers right now. Let’s stop pretending that an Introductory English course whose reading list consists only of tracts on Global Warming is a real education. This isn’t a ‘back to the basics’ approach in the pejorative sense. There’s nothing ‘basic’ or simple about Shakespeare, Real Geometry with real proofs, and a good foundation in History and Science. By the time I get students, it’s often too late to instruct them on the mountain of fundamental facts, theories and knowledge they should have got in high school, in whose stead they have washed up 60s granola–e.g., students who think Sacagawea is a seminal figure in US history but who can’t tie a single right to its guarantee in the Bill of Rights.

    3. And again, tracking. Let’s start to do what we all know must be done. Let’s take students and place them with students who are at their cognitive level. It’s already done behind the scenes and in whispered tones, and of course it’s done voluntarily by parents leaving OUSD altogether, but if we brought it out in the open with dedicated academic schools, we’d keep those parents and not frustrate all students.

  87. livegreen

    Ralph, Re. your 1st points: Brewer and a lot of Middle Schools have school counselors and have had them for a # of years. BOTR grew out of that and fulfills some of those duties, but is a more intensive, prolonged program because the school saw a need to expand work with the most at-risk kids (rather than a per-incident short term approach).

    Re. early financing, this is the challenge for any start-up, for-profit or non-profit. It needs the additional funding to both stabilize and grow, but can’t get the funds because it isn’t stable and hasn’t grown! How to get over that hill? Fund incrementally. That way you’re not risking huge sums on the organization, but evaluating it’s progress based on both programing and funding. (Engage is better then not engaging, or sitting on the sidelines).

    If you’re looking for alternatives that work, then you need to be prepared to take at least a little risk. Otherwise only the status quo will prevail.

    I understand Brewer is continuing to help fund BOTR because it’s working for the kids in the program, and making the classrooms a better place to learn for everyone. (Quite different from what we heard about some of the classrooms at Claremont). Brewer must know something, or they wouldn’t have the score improvements to show for it…(Along with, BTW, a great music program).

    Give programs like BOTR a chance, and consider helping them continue to evolve. It’s that or support the status quo.

  88. livegreen

    Ralph, BTW, I made some more inquiry and found out that BOTR’s director was one of the on-sight counselors for several years for Brewer, and since BOTR does the same in a more in-depth way, the relationship has both existed for several years now and is expected to continue into the future. So some solidity there.

    The after-school portion is funded by an additional group, Safe Passages, and they recently opened up another after-school program at Frick Middle School, funded by the same. So it seems the after-school funding is also stable, though they want to continue to expand it for both the reasons you mentioned, and so they can extend the work to other schools.

    Re. families, the ones I spoke with at their completion ceremony seemed to care very much. Some fathers were there, but most were moms, and mentioned the positives I already laid out in my previous post. Several parents mentioned they’d like to see the program extend into high school so the boys can continue the progress they’d made, and receive the benefits of positive peer pressure that they’re finding amongst each other with the support of BOTR.

    BOTR has an information session coming up this Sunday (info & first small fundraiser) if you want to find out more. Details on their website at http://www.brothersontherise.org

  89. livegreen

    Deckin, Re. your solutions, I’m willing to take your word for these based on your experiences, as I don’t have a background in schools and education. Re. the teachers unions, of course banning them outright might not be possible, but moderates including our President seem willing to challenge the unions steadfast support of the status quo (for the reasons you mention).

    BTW, I’ve heard even PS teachers tell me about how the status quo doesn’t work. For example I met one who teaches in Contra Costa but lives in Oakland, who would prefer to teach in Oakland but can’t because she’d loose all her seniority. ?? Oakland is losing good teachers because, like the City Govt., it’s based on seniority, not ability & success.

    Re. your point 2, this also applies to electives. The love of electives apply to all students, even those who need extra-time spent on basic education.

    Re. your point 3, “place them with students who are at their cognitive level.”, how would this work? For example where I went to PS on the east coast they did this by having 3 tiers of classes (level I, II, & III) IN ADDITION to AP for Jr. & Sr. year. So the kids who knew nothing about a subject were put in levels I and II. Mean-while they were supposedly in the same grade as levels III and AP, even though they were years behind.

    This allowed a school to keep passing kids while learning less! (And this was in a “good” school district). Of course the only alternative to this system would be to fail a lot more kids, and run the risk of more dropouts. On the other hand, this would be bringing the tracking out into the open, as you mention, and the parents with students in level III and AP might stay committed to the schools.

    Is this the type of thing you’re talking about, or something else?

  90. Ralph

    livegreen, will come back to your pts in a bit, but you to the tracking I agree that this is a must. Like noted earlier, parents do this when they opt to buy into particular school districts.

    All schools should offer both regular and advanced and AP courses at each grade level. But the regular classes should not be below grade appropriate. If you spend some time at O-High you will quickly realize that the regular 9th grade class is far from 9th grade material, but at the same time there are a high number of students operating at the 4th and 5th grade level. There are 11th grade history books which spend an inordinate amt of pgs on how to write a 7th grade essay.

    I am no fan of teacher unions as they tend to be resistent to change, but they do protect teachers from vindictive adminstrators and they guarantee a fair pay. I don’t know if it happens in OUSD but I do know that in some east coast school district some administrators gave excellent teachers poor ratings because they may not have liked the way the teacher dressed one day.

    How would you go about determining teacher pay. As a rule, we pay for results, but when much of a student’s performance is determined by factors outside of the classroom how do you create a system which fairly compensates without penalizing them for poor results beyond their control.

  91. Deckin


    That’s exactly the kind of tracking I’m suggesting. You seem to worry that we’ll have kids ostensibly in the same grade when everyone knows that aren’t at the same level. Well, guess what, we have it now, at every level of education. Tell me that a bachelor’s degree from Chico St., Berkeley, and Oxford are all on a par and I want to know what you’re smoking. So why not just make what’s obvious open and up front? Why must we have one kind of degree? England accomplishes this already with different bachelor’s degrees (First, various degrees of First, Seconds, and on). We should do the same starting probably in high school. That’s what’s done in every other country.

    Now, one thing that I would want to keep is the amazing openness of the US system. That is, there are more than enough second chances. So if we keep the Community College transfer system in place, you have a safety valve for all those either erroneously placed in high school, or who were easily college material but were too busy getting stoned or playing video games in those formative years. That covers more than a few very famous scientists and is one of the reasons for this country’s prowess. But so long as the safety valve is there (unlike in Europe and Asia where your future really is set in cement at an early age), then track, track, track.

  92. Sara

    The new principal is Kenya Crockett and there is a new AP. This might help turn it around. David Chambliss was really ineffective and seemed to be afraid to offend the parents of the students who were the worst behaved. The poor English teacher who quit probably got no help from the administration who was afraid to take a hard line. I worked there when David came on board and his first year there was an exodus of teachers due to lack of support. The classroom I was in didn’t have any internet access as the students had ripped them out of the walls but they were never repaired. There was no phone access to the office because the students kept cutting the phone wire. They roamed the halls at lunch which other classes were in session because the security guards didn’t work at lunch. The cell phone thing was out of control but teachers had no power at all to enforce the rules.
    Hopefully the new principal will have the guts to enforce the rules and not be intimidated by the parents of the children causing the problems. It would be wonderful if the parents of Chabot children would all send their kids there, not just a few of them. I look forward to seeing the changes in Claremont.

  93. livegreen

    Good to hear about Claremont, and I too hope this brings positive changes there. Then kids from Chabot and other Claremont feeders won’t all transfer to Brewer. Besides a little positive academic competition between schools might benefit all…

    BTW, how is this Peace Makers program they brought in? Is it providing results both for security and mentoring (as they advertise)? Or is it succeeding in just one or the other, if at all?

  94. Jenny

    I am an Edna Brewer alum, class of ’07. I was a student during the years of Ms. Marantz and she was a good principal, she walked around during lunch to check what students were doing, sometimes she would even start conversations with students, she also really liked us to show off our school pride by shouting “Edna Brewer Panther Pride” during school assemblies. Those were the days, students loved most teachers, teachers loved most students, fights were VERY rare, but disobedience was somewhat of an issue. All teachers had a system of handling those kind of situations: warning, phone call home, detention, going to another teacher’s classroom, speaking with the prinicpal or vice principals. There was a separation of students, we were put into seperate buildings. There was the main building/60 wing (6th grade students), 70 wing and the 80 wing (alternated every year between 7th and 8th graders). Two groups from each grade, each group would have the same teachers and the same students, so if I was in group 1, then I wouldn’t have the same teachers as a student from group 2. They weren’t called group 1 and group 2, they had way better names like Pride, Success, Pilot, Transformers, it varied each year. When I saw that Edna Brewer topped Montera and Bret Harte, I was a bit surprised, I know students that went to Montera and Bret Harte and they are very smart, but that doesn’t mean that Edna Brewer isn’t full of smart students. I know somebody that goes MIT that went to Montera, another person that goes to Stanford that went to Bret Harte, and another that goes to Brown and went to Bret Harte all of them graduated from Skyline High last year, by the way.
    Now I am a junior at Skyline High School. I was also very surprised to see that we topped Tech and oHigh because there are some smart cookies at that school. Skyline has way too many students (2100 students) but I understand because it is around a 45-acre school. The campus is so big that it’s very easy to cut, and lazy security guards don’t help that fact either. We haven’t had the same principal for a couple of years, and even this year, Ms. Hansen is only staying a year, she taught at Skyline about 40 years ago and has come out of retirement to help us out for a year, I’m glad she’s here. Skyline needs more teachers and counselors because there are not enough for 2100 students. 4 counselors for 2100 students?? I don’t think so!! Our athletic department is very strong though, we have tennis (I’m in varsity tennis), basketball, football, softball, baseball, volleyball, badminton, golf, track, cross country, soccer, and more. We have a pretty good library too, over 2000 books.
    I went to Lakeview Elementary from kindergarten until the 4th grade. I love that school, when you first see the school, it has bushes that spell out Lakeview, which is nice to look at. The teachers were really cool, after school programs were fun, the play structures were really fun, good exercise too. Academics is good, I could read at around a 4th grade level when I was in the 2nd grade, learned how to multiply and divide by the 3rd grade (but my grandma played a major role in that) and it was just a fun place to be at.
    For 5th grade, I went to Bella Vista Elementary. It was kind of a dirty school, dirty bathroom, dusty hallways, dark settings which can really creep young kids out. Academics there was pretty good too, I learned a far amount my 5th grade year. I wished that school was in a different part of Oakland because that part was not exactly safe, nothing ever happened when I was there, but it looked like something could’ve. There was a typing class, depends on which day your teacher chose to go, where I learned how to type. The software that we used was fun and easy. “I’m sorry, there are no more misspelled words” was what the software would say when you finished typing and made no errors, six years later, and I still remember. The after school programs were fun, too.
    I’ve read most of the comments and noticed that they were from adults, I just thought somebody should write from a student’s point of view.

  95. Paul Vetter

    Hey —
    I’m going to shamefully threadjack this thing. Not much traffic here lately, but you never know if I’ll catch someone who cares about Oakland public schools. Please check out our website for a charity bike ride to raise money and raise spirits about Oakland public education.
    It’s Ride for a Reason: California Public Education


    We’re going to ride from Oakland to Sacramento, meet some state legislators, collect some pledges, make some community. We benefit Claremont Middle School and Oakland Technical High School PTAs.
    Claremont Middle School has made solid progress over the last couple of years as more local parents get involved. New principals have brought new commitment to success. As a neighbor and parent, I have seen really positive progress in the test scores, student body pride and behavior, neighborhood, and campus appearance. Give us some money to keep our momentum going. Or come ride with us. This stuff requires time, money, blood, all that. (We hope not to do too much bleeding on the road to Sacramento.)

  96. len raphael

    Let’s start a betting pool on when the Merritt Bakery goes belly up.

    My guess is December 31 2010.

    What continues to amaze me is how our elected officials consider the RDA funds to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Unlimited, free money.