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Monday, August 27, 2012

Follow Up Schools Report: High School "At Risk"

NCUST's Devastating Follow Up Report:
School District Ignores Fix-It Recommendations At High School 

Just in time for the start of the new school year, Emery High School has received another failing grade according to a follow-up report released last week from the National Center for Urban School Transformation, an education center funded by San Diego State University Research Foundation, tasked with evaluating Emeryville's schools.  The report was meant to track implementation progress as a result of recommendations from an assessment report presented by the National Center last year.  That report, a sobering affair by any standards, showed a High School in failure on many counts leading to lowered academic results here at Emery.  As with last year's report, the NCUST assessment team this time also faulted mostly administrators.

The NCUST team now recommends the District explore alternate solutions such as transforming the school to what it calls the Emery Early College High School, a place where a high percentage of students complete one or two years of college credit by the time they graduate from high school or a Career Partnership Academy where students complete internships in local companies such as Bayer/ Novartis or Pixar. 
Dr. Joseph Johnson
Executive Director
Same as last year, the assessment team was headed up by Dr Joseph Johnson, the Executive Director at NCUST.  Dr Johnson personally assisted in the survey conducted at the schools and the follow-up assessment report. 

The new report notes many areas of last year's recommendations that the School District ignored outright or failed to implement properly.  The report now ominously warns of collapsing enrollment as parents seek a higher quality school elsewhere, "We are suggesting that the school is at risk of suffering diminished enrollments until the school is not sustainable" the report warns.  
The new assessment calls into question the School Board's commitment to change they promised after last year's report.  School Board member Josh Simon called for an implementation program to facilitate the recommendations in the wake of that report.

Elementary School Praised
Emery's elementary school, Anna Yates, as a contrast, received generally high marks and is shown to be continuing to improve.  The areas of improvement called for are mostly minor and not systemic.  Both teachers and the administration were praised by the report.

High School Condemned
Of the ten identified areas of concern needing improvement at the High School, seven either failed utterly or didn't improve enough to satisfy the assessment team.  Two areas showed clear progress and one area was deemed "difficult to assess". 
Perhaps the most distressing assessment for School District officials is the observation that the Center of Community Life, a high concept "school as the hub of the community" and long held out by the District as the lifeline to the failing High School, will not be sufficient on its own to turn the culture around. 

The Center of Community Life 
"will not be sufficient" 
to fix the schools

The report was generally positive as far as teachers at the High School are concerned, finding the ongoing problems there mostly with an unsupportive administration disrupting an environment where teachers might be encouraged to improve.  From the report, "One teacher explained, 'It’s hard to become a better teacher if you have to hide your weaknesses to keep your job.'  Teachers were not particularly open or clear about the sources of this tension.  In addition to discussing their lack of trust with colleagues, teachers discussed their lack of trust in the superintendent. They described the reduction in force as a contributing factor. They perceived that the superintendent had assured teachers that layoffs would not occur. They felt betrayed when layoffs were announced."

"We are suggesting that the school 
is at risk of suffering diminished 
enrollments until the school 
is not sustainable."

Administrators were further shown to be operating in a crisis mode, "Administrators did not perceive that they had adequate time to visit classrooms, especially after March 15th when the reduction in force went into effect. We did not acquire evidence that teachers had experienced opportunities to provide feedback to or receive feedback from their colleagues" the report noted.

Bright Note
The assessment team found some improvement, notably a greater sense of orderliness over last year, "The number of suspensions has declined; on the day of our visit, fewer students were waiting in the office because of discipline issues; classrooms and hallways were more orderly; and students reported a greater sense of order throughout the school."  However the assessment tempered the observation with an admonition that student behavior is at a low standard, "While there is substantial evidence of improvement over 2011-2012, there are still classrooms where students are not expected to adhere to high behavioral expectation." the report adds.

The entire NCUST follow-up report may be read here:


  1. Instead of posting all of the negatives of the high school why are their achievements not posted. Boys soccer, gils basketball Champions. The kids with 4.0's and involved in extracurricular activities. Post some positive and not all negative.

    1. Ahhh, the mantra of all those in power, be they public or private: Why won't the media stop printing news of our malfeasance and incompetence? Why won't they do our PR Department's bidding and help us out for a change? After all, the public needs to know what a great job everyone is doing....that's the media's job f'christs sake.

    2. I should add Dr. Johnson was careful to make the point that it was not the STUDENTS that were in danger of failing, but the SCHOOL. This means that we can have examples of students who are doing exceptionally, but that we don't have a system or a plan in order to support these efforts and make them more widespread and sustain them over time. The students are not at fault, and their own unwillingness to recommend the school to other students underscores this--it's not about their individual will--this is a systemic problem that we are very far from addressing on a district and policy level. Our individual students are not at fault.

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  4. Hah, the lower suspensions is BS. The only reason they are lower is because they decided to hold 'in-school' suspensions, where the student are removed from class, but not sent home and suspended officially for offenses that should get them sent home. Just another case of Emery trying to work the system instead of improving processes and culture of the school.
    Sadly, I think the district needs a clean sweep of administrators, and they need to start over to get the cancer out of that system.
    I watched as employee after employee came in bright eyed and hopeful with the ideal of changing students and school culture only to be beat down by the over riding culture of not giving a shit about doing your job well, of cost and corner cutting, and cronyism.
    It was hard to stay there when you would ask time and time again for resources to serve the students and be told 'no', while you watched them piss money away on hiring friends, putting a vinyl floor in the atrium, and buying a $10,000 greenhouse that never got built. I really loved when before the 2011-2012 year they spent thousands of dollars painting and rebuilding the offices in a building that was getting torn down in a little over a year. Or the 9 Million they spent on an Elementary campus, to build 20 new classrooms, that was slated to be abandoned in 3 years.
    Malfeasance should be one of the schools guiding principals.

  5. I like the idea of completing college level classes during high school. I hope that Josh Simon and the other board members explore that idea. It would make Emery Secondary much more appealing.

    I continue to worry about moving Anna Yates over to the Emery Secondary campus. The much larger 7th and 8th grade students are already making an impact at Anna Yates (used to be K-6, now K-8). If you have smaller kids in school - I have 2 in Anna Yates now - you worry about such things.


    P.S. - when are you going to post an article on the new school board member?