Newshour: To Lower Dropout Rates, Finding Potential Where Support Systems Are Lacking

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June 7, 2013

Oakland Local: From prison to Phi Theta Kappa: How one Oakland youth is helping change the juvenile justice system

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20130528_212916-659x497June 6, 2013
By Jon Leckie

When Jonathan Roach graduated from high school, he was thirsty for higher education, but as an inmate in Alameda County’s Juvenile Hall, the opportunity didn’t exist. Yet despite his lack of resources, Roach became the first person in Alameda County to begin his college career while still a prisoner of the juvenile justice system.

In 2010, Roach was arrested and charged with armed robbery. He was only 15, living life in poverty with his single mother and five other siblings.

“I made a mistake,” he admits. “I was on the wrong path, wasn’t going to school and ended up making a big mistake and going to prison.”

During the two years Roach spent in juvenile hall, he got back in school, attending daily classes and taking on independent study before accumulating enough credits to earn his high school diploma. But as Roach reached this major milestone in his life there were no caps, no gowns and he had little to look forward to except extended hours in his jail cell.

“After you graduate you’re just in your room because you don’t have to go to school,” he said, “and what you have is a lot of violent young men without anything to do.”

Roach, however, was not about to sit around letting time pass him by. Eager to continue his education, he sought out avenues that could lead him from his cell to college commencement.

On his search, he would eventually met Dr. Siri Brown, chair of Merritt College’s African-American studies department.

“The Department of African-American Studies at Merritt College has a long history of understanding the connection between academics and community organizing,” Brown said. “Two years ago we started offering college courses in juvenile hall. Students take correspondence or online courses, we use volunteer student tutors and try to create an environment where there is an intellectual exchange.”

Brown learned about Roach from Amy Cheney, the head librarian inside juvenile hall. After attending an event put on by Merritt’s African-American Studies Department on issues related to prison and death row, Cheney reached out to Brown about an inmate who wanted to go to college.

“I was looking for great speakers to talk with our youth. I had met Dr. Brown years ago and we had talked about her coming up and doing presentations,” Cheney said. “The situation taking place with realignment and the California Youth Authority shutting down created a situation in which there are kids here for a longer period of time.”

With the help of David Muhammad, Oakland’s former chief probation officer, Brown and Cheney developed a program to bring higher education to youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, and, in May 2011, Roach became the first inmate in Alameda County to earn college credit while inside juvenile hall.

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The Education Report: An unwise cut: help for new Oakland teachers

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Source: Katy Murphy
May 29, 2013

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and occasional blog contributor, writes about a cut to a program that supports hundreds of new teachers each year.

Since my retirement I have stayed involved with the district by providing coaching and mentoring to new teachers as part of the district’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program. Last week those of us who provide that help were told that the program will suffer a huge budget reduction for the coming year, with only about 70 new teachers receiving mentoring support instead of the 320 receiving that help today. Since each coach receives a $1,300 stipend for each teacher supported, this reduction will save the district about $400,000 next year.

The coaches in the BTSA program meet once a week with each new teacher. The coach observes the new teacher in the classroom several times during the year. Together the coach and new teacher discuss lesson planning, classroom control, the needs of English language learners and special needs students and methods to assess student progress and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Together they review and evaluate student work. The new teacher reflects upon how various approaches are working and learns to continually revise his or her practice to become more effective.

As part of the process, the new teacher also completes and turns in to the New Teacher Talent Development Office a series of forms and reflections demonstrating his or her growth over the two years that he or she is involved with the BTSA program. These forms and reflections form the basis for the Talent Development Office certifying that they have completed “induction,” a state requirement for converting a preliminary credential (which lasts only 5 years) to a clear credential.

New Oakland teachers would still have to complete all the forms and reflections, but most of them would not receive the coaching that is now provided. Coaches were told that the Talent Development Office was hoping that subject area specialists and consultants working from the central office, along with school administrators, would assist the teachers without coaches. It appears, however, that those individuals haven’t actually been consulted about this increase in their responsibilities and workloads.

No one presenting this new plan could say who decided that the budget should be cut in this way, or why budget cuts were required in a year when funding for the district should be increasing.

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Oakland Tribune: Oakland: Claremont Middle finds success with twin principals

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Claremont Middle School turns 100May 30, 2013
By Maya Mirsky

OAKLAND -- As Reginald Richardson, co-principal at Claremont Middle School, walks down the hall, he stops constantly -- to hug a staff member, shake hands with a parent, high-five a student and stop another student for a quiet word.

And then he's off again, down another corridor to check in with a classroom teacher.

This is the atmosphere these days at Claremont, which is having a good year -- and just in time for the school's 2013 centennial, which will be celebrated Saturday.

This school year was the first for the two new co-principals, identical twins Reginald and Ronald Richardson. Last year, the school went through four temporary principals. Now both brothers know every child in the school by name and will stop and check in every time they see something out of place.

"When they believe that you love them and want the best for them, they begin to change," Reginald Richardson said.

According to Paul Kagiwada, parent of a seventh-grader and co-chair of the Claremont Dads' Club, the arrival of the Richardsons has changed the tenor of the hallways and playgrounds.

"There's so much less tension in school," Kagiwada said.

It's part of the Richardsons' approach, encouraging a culture of respect and character-building that they apply not only to the children but to themselves as role models. They see restorative justice and positive messages as fundamental to creating an environment in which the children canexcel.

"We say discipline is a skill, not a punishment," Reginald Richardson said.

Their galvanizing effect and the fact that they are identical twins has given them plenty of local press and even some national attention. They've been the subjects of an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that was picked up by multiple blogs, and they were part of a national CBS News segment.

They were also heard across the country when public radio show "This American Life" did a spot on the brothers in January. Host Ira Glass came to Oakland to spend a day with the brothers.

"It's such a weird setup to have twin brothers running a school together," Glass said.

The twins have used their double act and particular skills to their advantage, like the time the former track-and-field stars chased down students who were fighting just outside school grounds. They caught the students and their speed impressed a few others, too.

"The funny thing is that those students never tried it again," laughed Reginald Richardson.

The Richardsons' family has a history in education. Their mother was a teacher and their grandmother a principal in Oakland. The twins are graduates of San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley who went through a lengthy process to get the Claremont job. As co-principals, they have no assistant principal. Provisional for the first year, the brothers' jobs were confirmed as permanent in May.
It's a coincidence that their first year is also a special year for the school -- founded in 1913, this year marks its centennial. On the same site since the beginning, it has seen many changes, from the disappearance of street cars to the building of BART and the freeway to many other neighborhood ups and downs.

The school is celebrating with an afternoon open to all and a special invitation for alumni. The day will include guest speakers and music by the school band and orchestra, with food provided by neighboring restaurant Oliveto and, of course, birthday cake.

Although the school site is the same, very little of the original architecture remains. But one bit of the old building is an ornamental iron gate. Long abandoned, it languished on the school grounds for years.

"There was this historic gate just kind of leaning against a wall," said PTA chair Amy Vaughn.

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Oakland Tribune: East Oakland program helps youth become `agents of change'

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Source: 19, 213
By Katherine Brown
In looking at the negative perception many people have of East Oakland, one would think that there was no opportunity for success, especially among youth. With limited resources and outlets to support youth in their professional and academic development, the future seems to be very bleak for young people.

However, organizations like the Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership (ACHPP) work to counter this perception, by creating healthy pathways for East Oakland youth to be agents of change in their city.

The program recruits middle school to college-aged youth that have an interest in health care careers.

"Sometimes they may not know or understand these careers, " says ACHPP Workforce Development Coordinator Sequoia Hall, "but ACHPP's initiative is to expose youth to the field."

Career opportunities range from Emergency Medical Technicians to careers in the biotech industry. The partnering organizations that offer this exposure include Bay Area Youth EMT Program, UC Berkeley's Biology Scholars Program, Biotech Partners, and CHAMPS — Children's Hospital Oakland.

Launched in 2007, ACHPP developed as a coalition with health-related organizations that serve young people. Each of those groups had the similar mission of increasing diversity in the health care workforce.

The ACHPP coalition decided to design a program that created a pathway for youth to gain careers in the health care field.

Dr. Jocelyn Freeman-Garrick — Alameda County Medical Center's Emergency Medical Services Base Director helped push forward the effort, and has received funding from East Oakland Building Health Communities (EOBHC).

ACHPP Program Manager Jacqueline León explains, "there is a huge need to have a coalition to address health disparities that are unique to Oakland. We feel that they can be combated with diversity in the workforce."

Health concerns that plague East Oakland communities include alcohol abuse, substance abuse, mental health challenges, domestic violence, and obesity. "We are a very rich community," says León, "but the health statistics don't support that."

The ACHPP is looking to address those disparities by recruiting young people from those neighborhoods and training them to be health care professionals.

While offering paid internships, ACHPP recognizes the importance of making sure that youth are academically and professionally prepared as they continue on their career paths. For example, partnering organization EMS Corps offers EMT courses, and in addition to a stipend, they provide professional development and life coaching — where youth are supported in navigating their internal and external environments.

As of 2012, ACHPP has served over 1,000 youth, and they continue to work hard to create more paid internships, especially for youth of East Oakland.

One youth that has benefited from ACHPP is Ivan Arreola. The 16 year-old East Oakland native has always had aspirations of becoming a physician, and the program, "solidified my desire to become and doctor. It's also broadened my eyes of careers in health, and how they each provide support and care for patients."

ACHPP has, "provided me with a path I should follow and how to get to the next steps to reach my dream," he adds.

The Alameda Science and Technology Institute student also takes classes at Alameda Community College, and will have completed eight college level science courses by the time he graduates from high school.

Soon to be a first-generation college student, Arreola joined ACHPP in the 8th grade Model Neighborhood Program.

In the summer of 2012, he participated in ACHPP's Mentoring in Medicine and Science. The monthlong internship provided him the opportunity to shadow staff in Oakland's Highland Hospital and the University of California at San Francisco.

Through his work as a physician, Arreola hopes to give back to East Oakland. "It's important to give back to the community," he said. "All you see about Oakland is violence, but it's also a place that brings people together in a positive way."

With East Oakland youth that are passionate about creating better health outcomes for the community, the perception of the city will be much brighter.

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The California Report: South L.A. Foster Kid Faces Uncertain Future

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shranktcrMay 3, 2013
Coriah Welch has about 20 colleges to choose from after she graduates. But the decision is a difficult one. For the last few years, Welch has been raising three of her four half-brothers in their foster home in South Los Angeles, and she's afraid to leave them. For our new series "Graduation Day," budding reporters from USC Annenberg's School of Communication and Journalism were assigned to profile high school students counting down the days until graduation. Reporter: Aaron Schrank

The morning bell at her high school has already rung, but Coriah Welch is still at home.

She's busy getting three little boys ready for school.

"I have to wake up very early in the morning," she says. "I have to pick out three outfits and comb three full heads of hair and make three meals a day. That's why most of the time I'm late for school, if I'm not up early enough. Then when I come home, it's the same. I do everything over and put them to bed."

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Coriah is 17. She and three of her four half-brothers are living in a foster home in South Los Angeles. She's not just their big sister, but also their protector.

"We kind of have the same name," Coriah says. "My name's Coriah, and then there's Cordel Jr., Cortlenn, Cortez-Dubois and Coreon. They're 4, 3, 2 and 1, back to back. They're really good kids, those are my babies."

Coriah is currently a senior at a high school in South Los Angeles, formerly known as South Central. It's the seventh one she's been to, thanks to bouncing around in the foster care system with her brothers. She has applied to more than 70 universities. She wants to go into politics and work to help foster kids. But first, she needs to decide on a college.

Coriah attended Foshay Learning Center for most of her senior year. She spent almost every lunch period sitting in the office of academic counselor Renysha Scott, talking college options. Her biggest worry: moving to another state and leaving her brothers behind.

"Her heart is not going to allow her to leave if she doesn't feel like they're secure," Scott says. "I think a huge part of it has to do with what happens with them between now and the time she gets ready to actually attend somewhere. I think she is very tenacious, so I really feel like whatever she wants to achieve, she'll absolutely get there."

Coriah wasn't always a foster kid. Her mother hasn't been in her life since she can remember, but she and her brothers lived with her father until two years ago. After a domestic dispute between her dad and the boys' mother, the kids were separated, sent to foster homes all over Los Angeles.

"I would think every day like, 'Are they eating OK? Are they bathing every day? Can they sleep at night?' Coriah says. "Because I wasn't sleeping at night. Sometimes, I thought in my head like, 'How could my mom not feel like this when I'm away? How does a mother not feel this?"

Coriah fought to get her family back together. She spent a lot of time on the phone with the Department of Children and Family Services and the lawyers representing her brothers.

"Every day, they got a call from me," she said. "I was bugging them."

After months of calling, Coriah got herself and three of her brothers into a foster home with a family friend. The fourth brother went to Coriah's grandmother. It's not a perfect situation, but the kids are pretty much together. Every Sunday, they spend the day at their grandmother's, hanging out and playing video games.

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KQED Forum: David Kirp's Strategy for Public Schools

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KDOL_Frontline 054In rebuilding our public schools, education policy expert David Kirp says we should stick to what works, like quality early-childhood education and creating word-rich curriculums. In other words, avoid getting carried away by quick fixes and the latest trends. His new book, "Improbable Scholars," tells the success story of Union City, New Jersey, and argues that all our public schools can benefit from what was learned there.
David L. Kirp, James D. Marver Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, member of President Obama's 2008 education policy transition team, and author of "Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools"
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KQED Perspectives: It's a Big Deal

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GabrielGangosaMay 8, 2013
KQED Perspectives
Written By: Gabriel Gangoso

Busy high schooler Gabriel Gangoso is missing out on being a kid.

"Always shoot for the stars," they say. So many kids, some out of ambition, many out of fear, rocket towards those very stars. Academics and filing college resumes becomes kids' whole lives. Especially now, when my AP and honors classes get harder, as my extracurriculars demand more and more of me, I find myself telling my friends and family "Sorry, I'm busy". Sure, some will say, "Oh, you missed a birthday party or two. Big deal."

Yes, it is a big deal.

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Perez Pushes Rainy Day Fund and Scholarship Plan

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Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesMay 9, 2013
Written by Scott Detrow

California’s state government may be turning the corner from a painful recession, but Assembly Speaker John Perez is already thinking about the next one. The Los Angeles Democrat wants to start setting aside money in a rainy day fund, so legislators aren’t faced with deep spending cuts the next time the economy goes south.

California's Capitol (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

That’s one of several budget priorities Perez laid outduring an interview this week with The California Report.

Just like Gov. Jerry Brown, Speaker Perez isn’t getting too excited about the additional $4.5 billion of  tax revenue that California collected this year. The better-than-expected tax haul has led to talk about restoring years’ worth of cuts in education and other state programs, but Perez said that conversation is premature.

“This does not mean that in the out year we’re going to continue to have extra amounts of money,” said Perez, pointing out the revenue is less than the $7 billion of new taxes that Propositions 30 and 39 generated. "So we have to be responsible in using this money that is short-term money differently than long-term money.”
Perez wants to use the money for one-time expenses, like paying off debt.
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Oakland Local: A Better Chance Celebrates 50 Years of Increasing High-Quality Education for Youth of Color

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Image_0May 2, 2013
By Corey Olds

Approximately 75 directors of admission and diversity from Bay Area independent schools gathered for breakfast at the UC-Berkeley, Clark Kerr Campus Wednesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of A Better Chance (ABC), a national organization headquartered in New York City, that annually places 500 or so academically-promising students of color in grades 6-12 in more than 300 ABC Member Schools throughout 27 states.

In 1963, A Better Chance partnered with 16 prestigious independent schools (14 of them in New England) to provide talented, but economically-disadvantaged students access to the best education available.

Over the decades, ABC and its Member Schools such as Milton Academy, the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, and Phillips Academy have produced nationally-renowned figures like Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund president Debo P. Adegbile, founder and president of the Fellowship of Latino Pastors of New England Dr. Roberto Miranda, and creator of the Violence Prevention Program and trauma surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center Dr. Carnell Cooper. Including these distinguished men, ABC boasts 13,800 alumni nationwide.

Yesterday's "50th Anniversary Member School Breakfast" marked the second of four such celebrations planned for this year. Earlier this spring, a celebration breakfast was held in Washington, D.C., and there will be one in Atlanta, prior to the June 11, 2013, "50th Anniversary A Better Chance Awards" in New York City.

Besides honoring the 16 original member schools, Roger W. Ferguson Jr., Chief Executive Officer of TIAA-CREF, will receive the Chairman's Award and ABC alumnus Theo Killion, Chief Executive Officer of Zale Corporation, will accept the DreamBuilder Award.

A local educational leader, Kareem J. Weaver, who serves as executive director for the San Francisco office of New Leaders, a nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders and designs leadership policies for school systems nationwide, delivered the keynote address.