Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Pop Quiz for Oakland Parents

By Michael Mechanic
Wed, Jan 17, 2007 at 3:26 PM

With enrollment forms due January 29, thousands of Oakland parents are frantically running around to elementary school open-houses, talking up neighbors and friends, and doing online research to determine which of the district's public schools might be suitable for their precious little ones.

Ironically, one place they won't get much help comparing schools is the district's own Web site. Take the following pop quiz: Below are descriptions of six elementary schools taken directly from the OUSD site. Three of them are among the top-ranked by Academic Performance Index, which reflects student performance on state-administered tests (maximum possible score is 1,000). The other three are among the lowest in API. Take out a pen and try to guess which is which. Better yet, post a comment with your guess. We'll provide the answers tomorrow.

School Descriptions:

A. The mission of XXXX is to nurture the intellectual, social, and creative capabilities of each child to the fullest extent possible so that each child is driven to take advantage of educational resources that ultimately lead to a gratifying, productive life in society. All students will be engaged in cooperative, across age, and across culture learning opportunities that help them become critical thinkers and problem solvers who respect and honor ethnic and cultural diversity. The learning environment will be collaborative, student-centered, safe, and stimulating to promote inquiry, achievement, and effective teaching. Staff recognize that communication and inclusion of families are crucial to the development of the child. To accommodate the needs of our increasing number of Spanish speaking students and families, bilingual classes are offered at each grade level. Intervention, tutoring, and enrichment classes are available to all students before and after school.

B. Our mission, and that of the District, is to educate all students so as to help them meet or raise their aspirations, to enable them to choose from a wide range of personal and career choices, and to prepare them to be effective, contributing citizens to society. A broad based curriculum is offered to all students. The needs of targeted students (underprepared, English Language Learners, special education, gifted) are met in the classroom through enrichment and differentiation of instructional techniques.

C. XXXX is an all-inclusive community with high academic standards where children are nurtured into life-long learners. Our school's mission is to provide a safe, clean, accepting environment in which each individual will learn and grow. We believe every culture, language, dialect, ethnicity, and learning strength represented in our community is of equal value. Even in the event of unexpected challenges, the XXX community strives to maintain a positive attitude and treat all individuals with respect. We invite parents, family, and community members to be our partners in embracing our mission and seeking success for every student. XXX has an active School Site Council (SSC) and English Learners Advisory Committee (ELAC), both of which participate in the development of the school plan and budget. Parents are also active participants in school wide events such as Back to School Night, Family Reading Night, and all cultural celebrations.

D. School begins every morning with Opening Ceremony. In a large circle we recognize birthdays, classes with perfect attendance and students who exhibit Lifeskills. Our PTA provides library, computer lab, and extensive classroom and teacher support. Vision Statement: The XXXXXX community will be engaged in continuous inquiry and self-reflection to provide a nurturing environment and powerful learning for each and every child.

E. At XXXX we use shared decision-making and an Expeditionary Learning program that integrates the arts, environmental consciousness, English language immersion, Spanish language learning for all, cross-cultural competence and authentic learning experiences to build confident, high-achieving, self-motivated, bilingual students who are prepared for a successful future. At XXXX each learning community member works towards raising imaginative, intuitive, and innovative scholars and explorers. In addition our sister Early Childhood Department offers an on site academic enrichment program before and after school for K-3 students, and a kindergarten readiness program for preschoolers.

F. XXXX is a wonderful place for children to learn. It is a place where we all work together to ensure that our children love learning and are happy with whom they are. We have a highly diverse student body with students from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds and families from many countries. XXXX places high value on academic excellence. XXXX is a true community where parents, children and staff work together to create a quality program for every child. We are committed to learning and growing on all levels, for all children. Our curriculum is competitive with those in the Oakland's best schools, both public and private.

Full Disclosure: The author is a parent of a child entering kindergarten.

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