OAKLAND — Two of Hayward's high schools were removed Thursday from the state's "persistently lowest-achieving schools" list, meaning they will avoid drastic interventions prescribed by the federal government that include closure and staff shake-ups.
However, Tennyson High School and two of the city's elementary schools remain on the list that was made public Monday. So did five middle schools from Oakland and an elementary school in the San Lorenzo district.
Janis Duran, the Hayward district's interim superintendent, said the district is hoping that for Tennyson, changes made this year to class schedules will count as part of one of the required interventions.
"As soon as we know more details, I will be bringing back some recommendations to the board which are feasible and cost effective," she said.
Laura Robell, the new principal of Elmhurst Community Prep, a 3-year-old middle school in East Oakland, sounded deflated. "Nobody knows, really, what will happen," she said.
Each school may decide whether to apply for a federal grant that would require them to make one of four interventions before the start of the upcoming school year.
Tony Smith, the Oakland district superintendent, said at Wednesday night's school board meeting that he had not made a decision about how to move forward. He noted that four of the five schools on the list were less than 4 years old, the product of similarly bold school reform efforts. The fifth school, Explore, will close at the end of the school year because of its poor test scores and low enrollment; it opened in 2004, also as part of an initiative to transform Oakland's public schools.
"Again, we see a formula being applied to very complex questions," Smith said. "In fact, Oakland has led the way in some of this work, and these schools end up on the list."
The other aspect of the school selection that has perplexed and frustrated school and district officials is that it excluded many schools from the list simply because they were too small.
In fact, 18 Oakland schools, including nearly all of the small high schools in East and West Oakland, would have been deemed persistently low-achieving if they had been larger, based on a list released by the state Department of Education.
Small, low-performing (in most cases, alternative) schools from Hayward, Fremont, Livermore and New Haven also were excluded from the list because of their size.
Matthew Duffy, the former principal of Elmhurst Community Prep — a middle school placed on the list, despite a 47-point API gain in 2008 — now supervises some of the district's high schools. He said he wished that school districts had the flexibility to direct the federal intervention dollars to schools that needed them the most.
In Oakland, he said, "We all know the place we want to put the most emphasis on is high schools."