shared by USAG-Humphreys on flickr

Have you ever had to command the attention of three dozen teenagers? It’s not easy. Especially when you’re still learning how to be a teacher.

“Classroom management, it’s about control,” says Oakland High School student teacher Diana Arbas. “Control of the students, sure, but it’s about control of self. It’s about demonstrating to them how an adult behaves.”

Diana, 27, is learning to lead in the classroom with the help of her Coordinating Teacher, or CT. She has felt a sense of responsibility to her students from the beginning. But, by December, when we last heard from Diana, she was ready for a break.

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has seen its share of upheaval over the past decade. In 2003, the state took control of OUSD after a series of financial missteps. In 2009, local control was returned to the district – with the understanding that it would pay back nearly $90 million in debt to the state. That was two days before Tony Smith took office as superintendent.


Karen Gordon

Diana Arbas, 27, is a student teacher at Oakland High School. She’s in a masters program at Mills College, where in order to earn her degree, she has to tackle a real classroom. Diana has the guidance of a more experienced teacher, known as a Cooperating Teacher, but the goal is for her to be able to stand on her own.

Oakland’s a hard city to teach in. Oakland High is in East Oakland. The student body is made up of kids with very diverse backgrounds, many from the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Not all come to the ninth grade ready to tackle that level of work.


It’s 7:55am at United for Success Middle School in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. Students are roaming the halls to avoid entering their classrooms. Talk of birthdays, high school classes, and juicy gossip are being shared in these last few minutes before first period.

Under CC license from Flickr user maltman23

For the past two months, KALW has spoken to families making their way through the special education system here in the Bay Area. A similar thread between all the families has surfaced: having advocates helping you navigate the system makes the special education waters a little less rough.

Roosevelt Middle School

What is the recipe for a good education and a great school?  That is the question that drives Oakland Public High School Principal, Cliff Hong.

Hong is at the helm of Roosevelt Middle School in the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland, which has about 650 students.

Mills College student and KALW reporter Karen Gordon met Hong a year ago, when he was in his second year as principal of Roosevelt Middle School. 

KAREN GORDON:  What is the recipe for a good education and a great school?

Schools and districts around the country are looking for ways to improve learning and safety for their students. And author David Kirp’s new book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System, tackles just that topic. He says we have to start with the way we think about education reform – and that means reforming the way we talk about it. He spoke about this with KALW’s Holly Kernan.

Putting a price on special education

May 28, 2013

As we consider the world of special education, the voices of school administrators – the people who help determine where district dollars go – are extremely valuable. Right now, sequestration threatens to cut millions of dollars in funding for special education. In San Francisco, that means a cut of roughly $3.8 million in federal funds starting this fall. That funding was previously used for child nutrition and early education programs – and it will now need to be found elsewhere in the district’s already tight budget.

Hana Baba

Learning music and playing it is one thing, but teaching it is whole other can of worms, especially when you’re teaching kids – and especially when there are 850 of them.

That’s what Ivan DeSouza does every week. He’s been the music teacher at Delaine Eastin Elementary School in Union City since its birth 12 years ago. It's part of New Haven Unified School District that recently won $29 million  in the President's Race to the Top program.

1:1 Fund

Carl Rist is behind a local effort called 1:1 Fund. It combines social networking and crowd funding techniques to help low-income students save for college. The 1:1 fund is a project of the Corporation for Enterprise Development, or CFED, and Rist is executive director of the project. He spoke with KALW’s Holly Kernan.

Hear Here: Seeking a higher education

May 15, 2013

Esther Goolsby is from East Oakland, and she is one of the people Carl Rist’s program might have helped if it were around back in the 90s. She was living in East Oakland, and at age 16 was already a mom. She told our community storytelling project, Hear Here, about the path she took to a college degree. 

Kindergarteners get a jump on college savings

May 15, 2013
Gerard Van der Leun

At the Castro branch of Citibank in San Francisco, kindergartener Mat Larizadeh is making his very first bank deposit. Mat walks with his mom, Aoddi Attasara, up to the teller window. He’s much too short to see what transpires up there, but he knows the amount is $50 – and that it has something to do with his education. After the transaction, the two make their way over to a table where a plate of cookies, a stack of coloring books, and a clear plastic piggy bank await them.

Dan Barbus

School districts are increasingly teaching technology as part of their regular curriculum, but the high cost of computers and tablets can hinder that effort. Last year, the federal government pitched in to help some schools out. Hundreds of school districts participated in the Race to the Top program, which is awarding major technology education funding to three school districts in California. One is in the Bay Area, Haven Unified, which serves Union City, in Alameda County.

Courtesy of Flickr user Conspirator

Mental health advocates want the link between violence and people who are mentally ill to disappear.

After the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six staff, lawmakers scrambled to respond to the public’s fear that schools aren’t safe enough. Some states and policymakers began proposing policy changes that addressed people who suffer from mental illness, because an investigation into the Lanza’s mental health history revealed that he had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and Sensory Integration Disorder (SID).


These days, we often hear that the gender gap is closing. Girls in high school are  excelling in reading and writing, and they’re making gains in math and science. Moreover, women are applying to colleges in greater numbers than men – and earning more degrees.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco has pioneered many concepts for the country. One of them is recognizing the importance of a college education that’s diverse, and multicultural, reflecting the populace. And so, the country’s first Department of Ethnic Studies was launched at San Francisco State University in 1968.

Courtesy of Playworks

Morning recess at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda is a boisterous affair, made even louder today by a strong wind that blows across the concrete yard, billowing kids’ shirts and ruffling their hair. Over at one end of the long yard is a playing field where Coach Kenny Wong is supervising about 20 children.

What the election results mean for public education

Nov 29, 2012
Under CC license from Flickr user JoeInSoutherCA

This past election, San Franciscans voted on 18 state and local ballot initiatives. Arguably the biggest winner was public education.

On the state level, voters approved Proposition 30, which was a tax increase to fund K-12 programs and community colleges across the state. San Franciscans passed local Proposition A, establishing a more secure financial footing for City College.

KALW’s education reporter, Jen Chien, reports on how these measures will be rolled out and what their impact on public education will likely be.

Oakland Unified School District has the largest enrollment of any district in Alameda County, with 136 schools and over 46,000 students. Within OUSD, about 25 percent are charter schools and this number keeps growing.

Arise High School, a charter, is inside the Fruitvale Transit Village in Oakland. The plaza looks hip and newly built. There’s a bank, senior center and a dentist’s office – not the typical setting for a high school with over 200 students. G. Reyes, one of the school’s co-principals, says Arise created a unique approach to learning.

Ali Budner

San Francisco’s Measure A passed yesterday, which means City College will get much needed funds. Prop 30 also passed, meaning Californians taxed themselves more than 6 billion dollars to help pay for public education.

As public schools face repeated budget cuts, many people focus on the effects on teachers, academics, and extracurricular activities. While these are undoubtedly pressing issues, there is another part of the school day that is often overlooked: nutrition. Over the past few years, Berkeley’s school district has made national news with its school lunch improvements. Now, Berkeley’s neighbor Oakland is trying to get a food revolution going, too. The Oakland Unified School District serves about 6 and a half million meals per year.

How can we save CCSF?

Sep 7, 2012

A special two-hour live broadcast of Your Call from the City College of San Francisco focusing on the crisis at CCSF, which is threatened with closure if it loses its accreditation.

Flickr user Max Wolfe

California’s public education system is facing serious challenges. Continuing cuts to funding are fueling changes in many districts around the Bay, like school closures and arts and PE being cut. Two state tax initiatives on the November ballot would partially solve this public school funding crisis. So as we roll into a new school year, we’ve asked education reporter Jen Chien to talk to help us understand what’s happening.

Click the player above to listen to the full report.

Much of the information young people receive is increasingly, if not exclusively, supplied by the Internet. A big part of this influx of information is from the website Wikipedia. The English-language version of the web-based encyclopedia has more than four million entries – and it is consistently ranked as one of the most visited websites in the world. In the last few years, Wikipedia has started spreading to college classrooms, but not without its share of controversies and concerns.

On the Aug 12 edition of Work with Marty Nemko, I'll talk with Mark Brewer, the respected principal of American Canyon High School about what the job is really like. He has impressed me not only with his ability as a principal but his willingness to be candid. 

In the second half of the show, as usual, you can call in for a Three-Minute Workover. I'll do my best to help you solve your work problem. I'll intersperse my favorite new career tips. 

This show airs Aug. 12, 2012 at 11 am.

What the UC system can learn from Chile

Jun 26, 2012

Campuses have played host to several protests throughout the year, with students outraged over steep rising costs. University officials approved tuition increases of eight to sixteen percent per year for four years. It’s a continuing trend – tuition has risen by more than 300 percent over the last decade, largely the consequence of drops in state funding.

At 8 o’clock on a Tuesday morning, about 400 students stand at attention. They’re outside the Fruitvale Oakland elementary school, Learning Without Limits (LWL). They recite the following vision statement, as they do every day upon arrival: “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us as we grow into leaders who are passionate and care about making our world better. We are equipped with skills and knowledge, filled with curiosity and we know that even when we face challenges, we will achieve!”