Friday, January 30, 2009

Charter-mania!

Recently, I've been busy doing research on the state of OUSD charter schools. This is my recent posting on the Oakland Public School Parents Yahoo group listserv.

Hello again,

In case you are ever curious about OUSD’s charter schools, I've recently discovered an OUSD charter school website that (to my surprise) is not part of the district's usual server group (ousd.k12.ca.us). It is called the “O.U.S.D. OFFICE OF CHARTER SCHOOLS” and is found at www.ousdcharters.com (that's right, c-o-m).

This site is full of information. For instance, did you know?

49 OUSD charter petitions have been approved since 1993

  • 32 OUSD charter schools are currently operating
  • 2 more charter schools will be opening in the fall, 2009
  • 9 charters have been revoked or closed
  • 6 charters have been abandoned
  • 1 school is a conversion charter school (Management of Cox Elementary was turned over to “Education for Change” http://www.efcps.org/)
  • 1 county-authorized charter is operating in Oakland (Envision Academy)

Basically, OUSD's charter schools are now numerous enough that a school district-within- a-school district now exists, complete with its own website. The total enrollment of that sub-school district in September 2008 was 7,845. A number of the schools are already slated to add additional grade levels in the upcoming years, so the enrollment is destined to increase.

On the website, you will find a page labeled "Announcements" (http://www.ousdcharters.com/announcements.html). There you will see a list of "Recent/Upcoming Charter Related Decisions". This is how you can learn who has applied for a charter, and if approval is pending, confirmed or denied.

I particularly enjoyed reading OUSD's denial response last fall to the American Indian Public Charter School's request. To me, it confirmed the suspicions, in bureaucrat-ese, that the school does indeed cherry-pick its students (isn't that a variation of tracking?).

It was also interesting to see that the district recently caught a private school trying to convert to a charter. The petition request for the Herbert Guise Charter (formerly "Christian") Academy was denied. Good job, OUSD!

Since many readers on this listserv are extremely active, informed parents, are you aware of any strageic plan for charter school expansion in OUSD?

At this point charter schools account for about 16% of OUSD's enrollment, most of which was accomplished in the past 10 years. Is there any problem if, in ten more, it has grown to 32%? I do appreciate that the district is being more cautious about granting its charters than it used to be, but shouldn't the number get capped at some point? (Certainly not, according to some...)

To the OUSD school board members who are reading this: Since there aren't many forums to discuss it, and since I'm sure many of us are curious, can you somehow let us know your perspectives?

In the meantime, Oakland's public school parents don’t need to fret if, one day, their child's school happens to get shut down. So many folks want to try out their own educational version on Oakland's kids these days, it's more-than-likely that a new charter school will be opening nearby soon!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reflecting on longevity

This post and the previous one are dedicated to the current and former, dedicated-over-time, "true" teachers that my family has experienced so far during our OUSD years. Their names are listed at the bottom.


Yesterday, I compared the teacher salaries of eleven Alameda County school districts: Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Emery (Emeryville), Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, Piedmont, San Leandro, and San Lorenzo.


Today, I compared the amount of experience of the teachers in those same eleven districts. Here are the rankings:


  • Average number of years teaching: OUSD placed 9th at 11. 4 years. The longest was Piedmont at 15.3 years. The shortest was Emery at 6.7 years.
  • Average number of years in the district: OUSD placed 10th at 7.9 years. The longest was Fremont at 11.1 years, and the shortest was Emery at 4.3 years.
  • Percentage of first year teachers: OUSD placed 3rd at 11.7%. The district with the largest percentage of first year teachers was Albany at 28.2%, followed by Emery at 27.7%. The district with the smallest percentage of first year teachers was Piedmont at 1.7%.
  • Percentage of second year teachers: OUSD placed 3rd at 8.7%. The district with the largest percentage of second year teachers was San Lorenzo at 14.5%, followed by Castro Valley at 9.7%.
  • Percentage of first and second year teachers: OUSD placed 4th at 20.4%. During the time period of the most recent public data, one out of five OUSD teachers had been teaching for less than two years.

School District

Avg. Yrs.

Teaching

Avg. Yrs.

In District

%

1st Year

%

2nd Year

Total % 1st

& 2nd Year

Oakland

11.4

7.9

11.7

8.7

20.4

Emery

6.7

4.3

27.7

2.1

29.8

San Lorenzo

10.4

8.5

9.2

14.5

23.7

Alameda

11.5

10.1

10.1

5

15.1

Albany*

11.8

9.2

28.2

4.8

33

Castro Valley

12.1

9.3

7.6

9.7

17.3

Berkeley

12.9

8.9

5.8

6.6

12.3

Hayward

12.9

10.2

10

4.6

14.6

Fremont

13

11.1

3.5

5.1

8.6

San Leandro

13.2

9.4

5.4

5.1

10.5

Piedmont

15.3

10.9

1.7

1.7

3.4



THE BOTTOM FOUR DISTRICTS

  • The least experienced teachers
  • The lowest district longevity
  • The lowest starting salary

Avg. Yrs.

Teaching

Avg. Yrs.

In District

Lowest salary

offered

Alameda

Berkeley

Berkeley

Emery

Emery

Emery

Oakland

Oakland

Oakland

San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo



THE TOP FOUR DISTRICTS

  • The most experienced teachers
  • The highest district longevity
  • The highest potential salary

Avg. Yrs.

Teaching

Avg. Yrs.

In District

Highest salary

offered

Fremont

Fremont

Fremont

Hayward

Hayward

Hayward

San Leandro

Alameda

San Leandro

Piedmont

Piedmont

San Lorenzo


The scheme now being steadily employed by inner-city school districts across the nation is to replace as many of their career teachers as possible with 22-year-old teaching “temps.” These energetic, young, recent college graduates have a do-gooder mentality and are willing to work in the worst inner-city school situations for very little pay. It is also beneficial to school districts that these fill-ins are green to the world of work and have zero family obligations. Those qualities, and being able to constantly take comfort in knowing they are short-timers, means that they don't tend to get agitated and complain (see this related link). Their lack of experience and interest in the career of teaching would be completely unacceptable to middle-class parents using either private or dominantly middle-class schools, the type of parent who these "teachers" themselves will become one day.


Although they are good people, these inexperienced short-timers
are not true teachers and should be called something like “impermanent educational technicians” or "temporary student trainers."** Nannies, who certainly function as temporary, surrogate mothers, are not exactly referred to as “mothers," are they?


Let’s all just stop pretending and call it what it is. Despite the pronouncements requiring "highly qualified" teachers in our most challenging public schools, career teachers who are well-trained and experienced are not really longer wanted in the schools that need them most. To supply them to all students would cost more than US citizens are willing to pay.


So, the ed "reformers" have come up with a cheaper product that's being promoted for them by the media. Programs to create stopgap teachers, like Teach For America and Oakland Teaching Fellows, are on the rise. Their minimal preparation time is a benefit, too. For instance, TFA training only takes five weeks; OTF training takes six, and voilĂ , zee young, totally un-experienced teacher is ready to start work in zee most difficult classroom in zee entire school district!


The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines stopgap as an improvised substitute for something lacking; a temporary expedient. (Except I'm not sure the idea is that they'll be temporary. I'd rather like to see these teaching corps as a supplement to the classroom, not as replacements for teachers.)


So, despite the recent educational rhetoric about civil rights and not leaving any of the children behind, it is obvious to me that our social policy is concretely demonstrating every-single-day that it doesn't consider the kids in those schools to be worth much. So as to divert our attention away from that fact, it's become commonplace, and very, very big, to blame the "true" teachers for society's failings, and (based on an obsession with test scores) to declare that they are hopelessly incompetent in order to demoralize and drive them out. Simultaneously, a set of upper-middle-class 22-year-olds is nationally glorified as stepping in to "save the day."


Like my mother occasionally reminds me, "Just follow the money."


ABOUT THE TEACHERS BELOW:


I admired and trusted these teachers and was personally able to witness their patience, wisdom, generosity, steadfastness, creativity, dependability, and dedication towards children as they toiled along with inadequate support (except at Redwood Heights where they had quite a bit in those days). These are primarily the teachers who my daughters had, and because I worked at a school for seven years and have been a very active parent, I know of many more. How much personal experience have most of the people who bad-mouth OUSD and other urban public school teachers had with them at all?


All of the "true" teachers in this country need more respect, care, and reward. And to make all the accountability folks happy, wasn't it the teachers of OUSD who gave enough of their blood, sweat and tears to recently make the District into California's "most improved urban school district?" For this, and all the other things they do, they most definitely deserve a raise.


Here are their names and I honor them:


Mr. Allen (Skyline)

Ms. Bale (Skyline)

Dr. Brown (Skyline)

Ms. Brekke-Brownell (Redwood Heights)

Ms. Ceremello (Bret Harte)

Ms. Chisholm (Bret Harte)

Ms. Cooper (Redwood Heights)

Mr. Correa (Skyline)

Ms. Dinell (Bret Harte)

Ms. Erata (Bret Harte)

Mr. Fitzsimmons (Bret Harte)

Ms. Grimes (Bret Harte)

Ms. Hamadeh (Bret Harte)

Ms. Harris (Redwood Heights)

Ms. Henrikson (Skyline)

Mr. Jollymore (Skyline)

Ms. Luzar (Redwood Heights)

Ms. MacElwain (Skyline)

Ms. Maffeo (Bret Harte)

Mr. Mates (Skyline)

Ms. McCrary-Holmes (Skyline)

Mr. Miller (Skyline)

Ms. Morici (Skyline)

Ms. Olinga (Skyline)

Ms. Ostrom (Skyline)

Ms. Ream (Redwood Heights)

Mr. Richter (Skyline)

Ms. Rodezno (Redwood Heights)

Mr. Salazar (Bret Harte)

Ms. Schneider (Bret Harte)

Ms. Smiley (Redwood Heights)

Ms. Sutton (Bret Harte)

Ms. Swayne (Bret Harte)

Ms. Toland (Redwood Heights)

Mr. Tolliver (Skyline)

Ms. Wallach (Redwood Heights)

Ms. Warner (Bret Harte)

Ms. Wilson (Bret Harte)

Mr. Worm (Bret Harte)

Ms. Wright (Redwood Heights)

Ms. Yoshimura (Bret Harte)

Mr. Zak (Skyline)


*I don't know what is going on in Albany, a lovely community which is home to a lot of professionals, but the teacher retention of their school district has plummeted in the last five years or so. Go to EdData and pull up Albany Unified, then locate the Teacher Experience table and look at the "pop-trends" pull-down graphs. If you know why this has happened, please submit a comment on this post.


** Here are other entertaining options from Roget's Thesaurus for the word "temporary": transient, transitory, provisional, impermanent, momentary, brief, fleeting, short-lived, transitional, provisional, standby, fill-in, stopgap, and substitute.





Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's just not enough

After comparing teacher salaries in Oakland and Chicago in the previous post, I thought I'd pull up some data about the teacher salaries of other school districts in Alameda County.*


OUSD is eighth (out of 11) in what they pay new teachers. They are dead last in what they give for top and average pay. This district will have to do better if it wants to attract and retain people who want to be teachers.


I'm now inspired to deliver treats to my daughter's teachers next week. It's not much, but it's the least I can do. By the way, they deserve a raise, too.


School District

Lowest offered

Highest offered

Average paid

Oakland

$38,778

$69,714

$53,869

Berkeley

$35,842

$74,502

$60,004

San Lorenzo

$36,112

$86,962

$63,395

Emery

$37,252

$71,183

$59,201

State average

$38,891

$78,167

$63,323

Alameda

$39,871

$76,028

$61,018

Albany

$41,517

$81,507

$62,270

Castro Valley

$42,013

$83,277

$61,984

Piedmont

$42,116

$81,937

$67,402

San Leandro

$47,925

$88,406

$68,989

Hayward

$51,324

$85,496

$70,433

Fremont

$52,478

$95,576

$72,528


By the way, San Francisco Unified salaries start at $38, 616 and top at $76,483. Their average is $58,151. San Jose Unified starts at $42,584 and tops at $85,510. Their average is $65, 633.


*On 1/13/09, only 2006-07 figures were available from Ed-Data.