District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond says the district decided to make Oak Ridge, Father Keith B. Kenny, Hiram Johnson, Fern Bacon, Jedediah Smith, and Will C. Wood schools education laboratories of sorts where teachers could try out anything that might help students learn.
One school's improvement stood out. On standardized tests, 57 percent of Oak Ridge Elementary students are now proficient in math compared to 38 percent last year. Kenny's combination of state test scores jumped 117 points in the past two years. Johnson climbed 57 points this past year.
RAYMOND: "What's so exciting is these teachers and teams of teachers and leaders: They changed their practice. They changed the way they're teaching. We could see it in student growth and we could see it in student work products that were being produced."
Statewide, standardized tests scores are up across the board regardless of race. .
The California State Schools' Superintendent, Tom Torlakson says more students are learning what they need to know, but more schools are being labeled as failures by the federal government. 913 schools will now be added to the federal list of failing schools.
He says the federal government cannot expect all California schools to meet national No Child Left Behind requirements in three years, given that only 34 percent meet them now. At a press conference, he referenced a chart that shows how rapidly the federal requirements increase.
TORLAKSON: "And you see the red line. We started out o.k. We were above where the nation said we should be and we've kept plugging along. But, look at that. It's like one of those crazy mortgage loans that you got. It's like a balloon payment. All of a sudden, 'Boom!'" Who can do that? It's just unrealistic."
Torlakson's figures are based on improved Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) …and California High School Exit Examination results. He sent a letter last week to the Federal Department of Education asking for a waiver from No Child Left Behind.
Torlakson says he believes the scores will go up even more if California can get inner-city parents to send their children to school. Currently, 17 percent of Oakland kindergardeners are chronically absent. The number is 22 percent in Los Angeles.