Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 16, 2015

Live in the now

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Another item that struck me about the public testimony given by the parents at last week’s School Board meeting was the insistence that the Academy of Alameda has raised test scores well beyond what the test scores that existed when the Academy of Alameda was Chipman Middle School.  Several parents touted this as the reason why AoA was wonderful and one parent even stated that staff at AoA showed her the test score comparisons.

Now that would indeed be impressive if AoA were serving the exact same population of students as it did when it was Chipman Middle School.  The sense that is conveyed based on anecdotal information and data from Ruby Bridges — which would have been the feeder elementary school to Chipman — is that the population of students at AoA is different.  Not vastly different, but different when it comes to the segment of the population where there have been studies of a demonstrative achievement gap: the economically disadvantaged students.

One would think that if AoA were serving the same population of students as it did when it was Chipman then the demographics would look nearly identical.  But that’s not what’s happening at AoA.  The only subgroup that tracks perfectly for the economically disadvantaged students is Latino subgroup.


So it’s fine if AoA wants to talk about their test scores, but they need to do it in context of what the Chipman population was, as opposed to what AoA is now.  If AoA argues that they are serving the same population as Chipman, then I (and others) would like to see that data.  I’m sure that AoA has the data to show what the neighborhood elementary school of each student was as well as their ethnicity and their economic status (not economically disadvantaged vs economically disadvantaged).



  1. Lauren, I’m notoriously fuzzy headed about numbers and statistics, but the graph seems to indicate that white students at AoA are in an extreme minority. From the graph there is no way to know about socio-economics of any of the population of any race, but since we are always talking about achievement gap with regard to minorities and African American kids, it seems to me any improvement in scores would be some kind of achievement. Your point about not doing a comparison to pre existing population is completely valid, but it is also a bit of smoke and mirrors, just like ACLC touting that they score 10. Comparatively, why not 11?

    The statistics on charters across the board is that they are no better than public schools and can be worse, but every charter is different. I’m all for innovation. Even if only a few kids in Alameda are getting a better education it’s hard not to support that, but Chipman is an odd case. It was a third of a public middle school system and it’s achievement gap was likely due to it’s location as opposed to the quality of education. Facing punitive measures of NCLB may have been an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons, but we will never know what could have been done within the public system had the school gone the route of Maya Lin.

    I’d like to see the over all economic impact of all the charters in Alameda on the public system. It would take real expertise to mine this data and sift it for significant information, as opposed to just fishing for specific outcomes like proving detriment to public system, but it would be interesting to have a clearer picture. The thing about charters is that they have proliferated under weird circumstances which have generally encouraged moving away from public systems instead of taking the same resources to push for all out improvement in the public system. I’m talking nationally as a trend. Every decade there are so called innovations in education like “new math” when I was a kid and they tend to be fads. To my eye charters fall in to that pattern. Newer parents may not know that Alameda had a great start in the early 1990s before the charter fad got going. Superintendent Chacoans may have financed the innovations on the back of teachers a bit, but we had developmental programs at Chipman and Paden and ACLC was a school within a school at Encinal. The Paden program had mixed age classrooms throughout and was fantastic. The testing of NCLB made it impossible for teachers to maintain the programs. We have to move forward from where we are, which happens to be with a lot of new charters, some of which are apparently effective by some measures. I wish people who get all jazzed in the moment could step back a little more and capture the education movement from historical perspective and less from the bubble of their immediate choices. It’s like musical chairs where the music stops and we all push and shove for the chair which would be the best educational choice for our child at that moment. Some are fancy plush chairs and some are wooden folding chairs. Our abilities to position ourselves to pounce are skewed and the financing of the chairs is whack too.

    It may be a lot much to ask parents sacrifice the one time opportunity for best possible education for their child to a principle, like staying public for example. It’s not even clear when such a sacrifice is being made or how big it is. It would just be nice if the discussion were as honest as possible.

    Comment by MI — December 16, 2015 @ 8:05 am

  2. Economically disadvantaged white kids aka poor white kids. In Ruby Bridges those are our English Language Learning Middle Eastern students. AoA is serving less economically disadvantaged kids across all ethnic categories with the exception of Latino students.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 16, 2015 @ 8:09 am

  3. 2. less than Ruby Bridges, right? No way to know about population compared to Chipman or have you tried to look in to that? Our neighbors sent their white son to the Academy as opposed to Wood. That was in first year of the Academy and it was shaky, but I think by year 3 they were O.K. with it. The kids stayed there. They would not qualify as economically disadvantaged. I thought Academy had attracted significant cross enrollment like my neighbors, but I’m out of touch now.

    Comment by MI — December 16, 2015 @ 5:48 pm

  4. Let’s not forget that our housing crisis has impacted lower income families on the West Side, who have likely been replaced by higher income families. I’d be interested to see how these demographics have changed in the past five years for all AUSD schools. It’s beside your original point, but should still be acknowledged.

    Comment by Angela Pallatto Hockabout — December 16, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  5. Why are two of the catagories racist (skin color) and the other two ethnic? They’re American kids for Christ sakes there are no black, white, tan, yellow, red or tan. Quit catagorizing kids by racist adult discrimination.

    Comment by Jack — December 16, 2015 @ 7:05 pm

  6. Certainly there are more elementary schools feeding into Chipman/AoA than just Ruby Bridges, aren’t there? If so, your comparison is flawed without knowing the demographics of the other feeder schools, isn’t it?

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — December 16, 2015 @ 7:35 pm

  7. At 7:30 a.m. I’m not awake, and 6 pm I’m beat. Then I got to thinking, something ain’t right and sure enough I just READ the header ( plus the small print) on the graphic: “ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS, percentage of students,” etc. Well shit, twelve hours late I read it and I get it. So most of comment 1. was generic and not specific to the graphic anyway. But now the text in Lauren’s post makes better sense. Thanks Lauren.

    Comment by MI — December 16, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

  8. Here’s the thing…I respect the educators who are trying to keep AoA open if they are doing it for the right reasons…is it the best plan for the most kids? That does not mean sacrifice the learning of some at the expense of others to achieve some higher social purpose. Based on test scores it is not happening yet. Just don’t lie to parents or the community.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — December 16, 2015 @ 8:23 pm

  9. I’m still having a hard time with this comment from Dec. 11 “Buddy System” :

    “So let me get this straight. We shouldn’t have charter school programs, yet when such schools do innovate and show success, AUSD then decides to look into new paradigms? Does AUSD have a way to come up with innovation on its own or will it always look to the charter school system for new ideas?”

    It’s hard to even know where that comes from, other than a bad misimpression. It is an incorrect statement at every level and to let people think it is correct is dangerous to public education. To repeat my comment from that post, Lauren’s whole post was about how Ruby Bridges and other schools use buddies. Not new and not innovated by AoA. In discussing charters I often try to remind people ( especially people who haven’t lived here long or who have young kids) about the programs AUSD innovated but had to abandon because of things like NCLB and general lack of education dollars. Paden and Chipman are mentioned in 1. above. But I forgot the Academies at Wood which were dropped in the 2000s. Our son who benefitted from the arts Academy called Friday night and mentioned that one career option he is considering might be to teach theater. He cited his core teacher from Wood , Paul Moreno, as perhaps the most important influence in his education which he said he didn’t appreciate until recently. That core class was English and history, but Paul also taught theater and as an incorporation of the three they did a production of the Crucible. At least an big an innovation as any charter in Alameda. The other arts academy centered on architecture and there was a science academy as well. The district hired a founder of Beacon private school as a consultant on a number of programs, but the term charter was not even in common use then. That was 2003. A child could have entered kindergarten and graduated in the time which has elapsed since then. Mr. Moreno was young enough to still be teaching and I hope he is still at Wood. Wood seemed at threat of closure even though former superintendent KV denied an actual plan, but the community there was strong and I’ve heard that the programs are on the rebound.

    Comment by MI — December 20, 2015 @ 10:52 am

  10. One more thing about charters and the parcel taxes. I seem to recall NEA made a big deal about getting their cut, and we read a comment here which said there was some threat from AoA board member to not support the next campaign if AoA isn’t treated right. (Makes me think of Donald Trump complaining he’ll leave GOP is he isn’t treated well). I just wanted to mention experience walking precinct the last two times. I ran in to parents of kids at NEA and ACLC who were grumpy about supporting the tax. One parent complained about the high taxes on his home explaining he didn’t need the parcel tax cause his kid was in ACLC. Not only was his “we’ve got ours” attitude offensive, he was also wrong about dollars flowing to charters. Same guy went on to do HUNDREDS of thousands in renovations on his home.

    Regarding 4 above. As families of school aged children who can’t compete in this rental market are driven out of Alameda they can only be replaced by folks of greater economic means, i.e. upwardly mobile. I don’t have stats on this, but anecdotally it seems folks with more economic mobility tend to be more actively involved in their children’s educations, which in turn leads to more awareness and interest in choices like charters. If there is a shift toward more upward mobility I hope those folks are better informed about school funding than some of my neighbors.

    I just realized comment 9 could give the impression that the consultant from Beacon was hired in 2003 which was when our son was at Wood. I think Leslie Medine was hired in the early 1990s.

    Comment by MI — December 20, 2015 @ 11:20 am

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