Oakland school honored for closing achievement gap


When it comes to closing the achievement gap, Manzanita SEED School ranks No. 1 in California. The elementary school was given a National Title I distinguished school award. The Fruitvale neighborhood school was only one of two schools in the state and 250 nationwide to receive the prestigious award.

There are 6,000 Title 1 schools in California, and the vast majority of the students come from low-income families. Manzanita SEED has come a long way. Just six years ago, it was a failing school. The school was then divided by the Oakland Unified School District into two smaller schools, Manzanita Community School and Manzanita SEED.

"Learning becomes exciting, fun and you build curiosity while embedding all the standards that you normally have to teach, so the kids get the chance to love to learn," Manzanita SEED teacher Daniel Pastrana said.

In 2005, the school's API scores, which measure proficiency in math and reading, were in the 500s. Now they've reached 850 out of a possible 1,000. The state's goal is for every school in California to reach 800.

SEED stands for School of Expeditionary Learning, Equity and Diversity. By becoming a small school, Manzanita SEED was allowed to have its own curriculum.

"Curricular flexibility has supported this vision by allowing us to focus on standards-based teaching in a creative, innovative way," school principal Katherine Carter said.

SEED is also a Spanish-English immersion school and the parents, many of them English learners, have been instrumental in the school's success.

"I've been trying to be more involved with the school, and they embrace us," parent Lateefah Herron said.

"I'm a believer the more attention the parents pay, the better the kids respond," parent Don Macleay said.

Another way parents get involved is through the Family Literacy Project where English classes are offered and this way, parents are more connected to their kid's education.

"A lot of parents come in and observe that class or sit in and help out. If they don't understand the homework, they are invited to come in," Manzanita SEED teacher Anne Perrone said.

While many schools in California struggle to close the achievement gap, Manzanita SEED reminded everyone it can be done.

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