Master Teachers at Hillcrest

Big congrats to Hallie Bahr and Christina Freshl, fifth-grade teachers at Hillcrest School.  Everyone of their students last year will enter middle school proficient or advanced in reading, writing, and math. It was the most successful 5th grade cohort of any Oakland public school.

Christina Freshl

Hallie Bahr

Oakland Unified is blessed with some fantastic teachers, but not all teachers are equal. The Los Angeles Times is about to publish the names of thousands of elementary school teachers next to a measurement of their effectiveness. Teachers in LA are ticked. But how are parents and guardians supposed to choose teachers? Any principal can tell you that some teachers are more popular than others. As the LA Times noted, popular teachers aren’t always the ones whose students earn the highest scores on standardized tests.

While Hillcrest goes all the way up to the 8th grade, we looked at the 5th grade test score results released Monday for all of the Hills’ elementary schools. It wasn’t a scientific study, but all of the schools improved scores for fifth graders with the exception of Glenview. We know that standardized tests are but one way to measure schools, and not always the best way. We looked at 5th grade, because it’s in middle school that test scores begin to decline for many students. The stronger the foundation a student has at the beginning of middle school, the better. You can see test results for all grades and schools in the state here.

Crocker Highlands: English Language Arts (ELA) – 88 percent proficient or above, Math – 82 percent proficient or above

Glenview: ELA – 56 percent, Math 29 percent *

Henry J Kaiser: ELA – 84 percent, Math – 70 percent

Hillcrest School (K-8): ELA – 100 percent, Math 100 percent

Joaquin Miller: ELA – 84 percent, Math – 68 percent

Montclair: ELA – 90 percent, Math – 90 percent

Redwood Heights: ELA: 91 percent, Math – 93 percent

Sequoia: ELA – 62 percent, Math – 76 percent

Thornhill: ELA – 91 percent, Math – 91 percent

* This is a pretty steep decline from the year before (ELA – 69 percent, Math – 67 percent), so we called the school district too learn if there any special circumstances to explain it. We’ll keep you posted.

2 thoughts on “Master Teachers at Hillcrest

  1. Public school education in California and the nation is being driven, I believe foolishly, further and further down the road of standardized teaching to satisfy requirements of standardized testing. One size fits all education makes no more sense than one size fits all shoes. Children come from different backgrounds including language, expectations, diet, exercise, sleep, television watching, reading at home, using math and science in conversations at home, exposure to history, geography, travel, computer access – need I go on. If one wants to use student performance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers then students should be tested on the day classes begin and the day classes end. Student-by-student evaluation of progress made during the year might be some sort of proxy for teacher performance that year. Comparing this year’s fifth grade at single school to last year’s fifth grade at that school is so apples and oranges it is absurd. This is a clear example of using data meant for state-wide statistical analysis (itself of dubious value) and applying it to a single school, a single classroom of students or, worse, a single teacher.

    The idea that teachers who may have passed on to them the outstanding work of four or five years of excellent teachers teaching children who come from homes with the “ideal” educational background to do well on standardized tests deserve special honors, while teachers struggling every day with students who must be motivated to be the first in their family to finish high school, or to attend school beyond fifth grade, or to come to school despite the expectation that he will be beat up on the way home or that she will be mocked because she has to wear clothes that don’t fit just so, are penalized because this year’s students don’t do better than last year’s students.

    Yes, I was a high school teacher in East Oakland. It was the hardest job I ever had. After 25 years of 60 hour weeks in the Financial District, I learned how hard it is to really teach “academic English,” as I called it, to students who never had need for such language outside of class. I tried to help them enjoy Shakespeare, distinguish “there” from “their” and write a critical essay, understand and use footnotes, write autobiographically, write fiction, write poetry and of course how to select A, B, C, or D to answer mostly silly questions without getting to ticked off, hungry or tired to put much effort into it. I failed, but the kids did not. After I left the school most of those students not only graduated from high school but entered colleges. The student I have remained closest to, left our school before I did. He went to another school, or two that he thought would be a better fit. He is in prison. He was one of the most well read and analytical students in the class, but I could not hold on to him them. I’m still trying.

  2. Kenneth, I agree with you that standardized tests are profoundly flawed, but it’s not accurate to say that the data from the STAR is meant exclusively for state-wide analysis. On the contrary, it is provided so that teachers and principals can have another measure of what’s happening, or not happening, in the classroom. But that’s all it should be, one measure out of many.

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