This is a sampling of The Education Report, Katy Murphy's Oakland schools blog. Read more at www.IBAbuzz.com/education. Follow her at Twitter.com/KatyMurphy.

Dec. 4: Fifteen Oakland schools recently put their instructional programs, level of family participation, leadership and learning environment under the microscope as part of a pilot evaluation project. A color-coded matrix showing the results (school names omitted) is just one example of the kinds of rating systems being put in place in Oakland Unified.

On Wednesday, the OUSD board discusses this and other parts of its "Balanced Scorecard." The scorecard sets goals for student achievement, attendance, discipline rates (racial disparities, in particular), effective teaching, teacher satisfaction, teacher retention -- and, yes, for a balanced budget that maximizes teaching and learning with an equitable (read: not equal) base funding model for its schools.

The plan calls for increasing the graduation rate for each student subgroup (black, white, Asian, Latino, male, female, English learners, special education students) by 1 percent this year, as well as the overall rate.


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Other goals include upping the number of students who graduate UC/CSU eligible, meaning they've completed the so-called A-G requirements; boosting the number of students who graduate from an academy or career pathway, and making it mandatory for 11th-graders to take the CSU's Early Assessment Program test in English and math.

On average, just 14 percent of OUSD 11th-graders who recently took the EAP test are deemed ready to tackle college-level English, and 6.7 percent in math, according to OUSD. That percentage could drop further once students are required to take it -- now, roughly two-thirds of juniors take the assessment. Statewide, only 23 percent of students tested college-ready for English and 15 percent did so in math this spring.

Of course, no report on a so-called balanced scorecard would be complete without its share of buzz words, acronyms and catchphrases. I found plenty, especially in the parts about OUSD employees: human capital data system, Talent Acquisition Team, SQR, and "an integrated and aligned central- and site-level investment tracking system," to name a few.

What do you think about these ideas, in general, and the specific goals included in the draft? Are they the right goals -- and are they aggressive enough?

READER RESPONSE

Steven Weinberg: It is important to note that the EAP tests set an "aspirational" target, that is, they represent the skills that a committee of college leaders would like incoming students to have. No group of entering college freshmen have ever attained that level. Colleges accept many students who do not score at the target every year. None of this is to say that attention should not be paid to improving these statistics, but we should not draw unwarranted conclusions.

Charlie At Bridge The Chasm: In any organization, especially in fixing a failing one, I think true progress is made when goals are simple and address the root cause of the most critical issues facing the organization.

If there was a long-term goal in all of this, it would be to decrease the dropout rate for African-American males to 15 percent or less by 2022. I believe a 1 percent change in any single year is a poor target because it cannot be distinguished for year-to-year fluctuations, which do not represent an improvement.

The short-term goals that will have the greatest effect on all the other issues listed are: By the end of second grade, EVERY student in OUSD, with special emphasis on African-American boys, (1) meet the Common Core standard in math ... "Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. By end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers." (2) meet the second grade common core standard for Reading Standards: "Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words" and a related list of words which should be known/memorized.

There are fourth-graders and above who cannot add 8+7, there are high schoolers who identify 'but' as a word for which they do not know the definition. ...

Livegreen: With so many students unable to attain college, it is amazing that it's the primary goal (read only goal) of OUSD for high school graduates, when it should be but one of the goals.

College or nothing. Surprise surprise, for most students it ends up being nothing.